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THE 
EMERALD BUDDHA 



THE 
EMERALD BUDDHA 



BY 
JOSEPH B. AMES 

Aathor of "Cntlr of the Circle Bu," "Peta, 

Cowpnncher," "The Mjiter; of 

Ram Island," atc.i etc. 



BOSTON 

SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS 



Bx BMALSj, WtYSABD t COHFANT 

(HKXnPOBATKD) 



LIEUTENANT PETER ASHMUN AMES 

GRINAOXBR GUARDS 

NOVBMBBR 21ST, 1920 

MismwUu fmtrU diitctl PtOrUt U$Ut 



CHAFTBt 
I 

II 

III 

IV 

V 

VI 

VII 

VIII 

IX 

X 

XI 

XII 

XIII 

XIV 

XV 

XVI 

XVII 

XVIII 

XIX 

XX 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

The Blue Diamond i 

Mystery 12 

The Pirate Launch 24 

Stolen 33 

Pursuit 44 

The Ring of Shadows • • • • 55 

The Eye of Vishnu 67 

The Legend of the EmeSald . . 80 

The Quest Begins 92 

A Whisper in the Dark .... 105 

The Mandarin of the Purple Fan . 1 16 

Treachery 128 

The Cave of the Golden Dragons . 138 

Trapped 149 

The Bronze Lever 161 

The End of Fu-Chong .... 171 

The Wreck of the Ocean Queen . 180 

Skeleton Island 191 

Sinister Relics 202 

Trouble Brewing 211 



Contents 
cHApm PAd 

XXI The PoisoNEa) Pearls 223 

XXII The Half-Bbeed, Garcia .... 236 

XXIII I»TO THE Jungle 244 

XXIV Forebodings 253 

XXV The Flying Terror 261 

XXVI , The Vanishing of Sarak ... 271 
XXVII The Buddha's Vengeance . . . 280 

XXVIII By a Hairbreadth 292 

XXIX At Last 302 



THE 
EMERALD BUDDHA 



THE EMERALD BUDDHA 



CHAPTER I 



THE BLUE DIAMOND 



Kent SherwcMDd swung himself lightly from 
the Pullman platform and with a quick gesture 
summoned two of the uniformed porters hover- 
ing about a pile of luggage that was being taken 
from the train. 

"One of you take these to the taxi stand," he 
said, indicating two bags and a bullging steamer 
roll. "The other can look after our trunks. 
Here are the checks. We're in rather a 
hurry." 

His orders were obeyed with uncommon dis- 
patch. They usually were, in fact. One of the 
most genial persons in the world, Sherwood 
nevertheless had the air of one who knows ex- 
actly what he wants and expects to get it. It 



2 The Emerald Buddha 

is a manner indicating generally either a large 
knowledge of the world, or the backing of un- 
limited wealth. In his case it was both. Hav- 
ing seen the porters on their way, he turned 
briskly to the young fellow who had followed 
him more leisurely from the train. 

"Well, we've made it all right, old man," he 
said smiling. "The steamer doesn't sail for a 
good hour yet. Tired ?" 

Dick Warrender laughed. "Of course not I 
After lolling about on trains for a week, I don't 
want to do any more resting for ages." 

He was about sixteen, with pleasant brown 
eyes, set wide apart, and crisp brown hair. He 
had the shoulders and general build of an ath- 
lete, but just now his clothes hung loosely about 
his spare frame and his face was rather pale as 
if he had lately recovered from a serious illness. 
As a matter of fact it had been nearly fatal, 
but there were, he frequently reminded himself, 
compensations. Except for that 
yphoid his cousin, Sherwood, would 
have never suggested this gorgeous 



The Blue Diamond 3 

trip to the Orient on which they were just em- 
barking. All the way across the continent 
Dick had been pinching himself every little 
while to make sure he wasn't dreaming. Even 
now he felt he couldn't really and truly credit 
his good fortune until the steamer had actually 
left the dock. 

"Well, youVe still a lot of loafing ahead of 
you," smiled Sherwood, taking his arm. "The 
Pacific isn't like that little pond on the other 
side. We're lucky if we make Yokohoma in- 
side of two weeks." 

Their progress through the crowded Van- 
couver station was not a very rapid one. Ap- 
parently another train had come in a minute or 
two after their own, and they were presently 
sucked into a mob of hurrying passengers 
streaming toward the exits. Even Sherwood, 
experienced traveller that he was, became 
slightly annoyed at the constant pushing and 
shoving. 

"They ought to manage these things better," 
he said with some petulance, "and not dump 



Z' 



4 The Emerald Buddha 

two or three train-loads down here at once." 
"Oh, I don't mind it/* protested Dick cheer- 
fully. "After being on your back for weeks 
and weeks, it's sort of nice to be shoved around 
in a crowd. Look at that chap there, Kent — 
the brown one, I mean. He's nearly as dark as 
a negro, and yet he isn't, is he ?" 

Sherwood's alert glance had already fallen 
on the man in question, a slim, slight, shabbily 
dressed individual with swarthy skin and dark, 
piercing eyes who was swiftly threading the 
crowd a dozen feet away. 

No; he's a Hindu, I think," he answered. 
Rather a high caste, too. He can't ever mean 
to go back to India. You know it's considered 
one of the greatest possible religious crimes for 
them to discard their turbans and all that, and 
put on foreign clothes. Well, here we are, 
thank goodness ! Hop in, old man." 

Their bags were already inside the taxi, and 
after a short wait the two steamer trunks were 
trundled up and piled in front. The dock 
proved nearly as crowded as the station had 






The Blue Diamond 5 

been, but somehow this did not seem to trouble 
Sherwood. In spite of his many trips abroad 
the atmosphere of these gangway throngs still 
had the power to stir him. He liked the sense 
of bustle and confusion, the clattering trucks, 
the scurrying, ladened porters, that first strong 
whiff of salt sea air. Even the high-pitched 
talk and laughter of the passengers seemed to 
carry a pleasant undercurrent of anticipation 
and excitement. 

With the ease and swiftness of the seasoned 
traveller, he piloted Dick up the gangplank, 
siezed upon a passing steward, and almost be- 
fore the boy had got his breath, they were in- 
stalled in their stateroom, forward on the 
promenade deck. 

"Now you spread out on the locker and take 
life easy while I straighten things up a bit," 
Sherwood told the boy. "After a while we'll 
go out and see if they've given us deck chairs 
where I told them." 

Dick did not feel in the least like resting, but 
by this time he had learned the futility of ar- 



6 The Emerald Buddha 

guing with his cousin. So he dropped down on 
the upholstered top of the wide locker and ex- 
amined with approval the attractive appoint- 
ments of the cabin. 

"I do hope Tm not going to be seasick," he 
said suddenly, his mind shifting abruptly from 
the contemplation of white paint, crisp chintz 
and alluring space-saving arrangements of 
drawer and locker. "That would be the ex- 
treme limit." 

"You never have, have you ?" 

Sherwood's tone was slightly abstracted. 
He stood before the dressing table in his shirt 
sleeves, the coat he had just taken off lying 
across one corner of it in a heap. His back was 
toward Dick, but his face was mirrored clearly 
in the glass. It wore a distinctly puzzled ex- 
pression and the eyes were fixed mtently on 
something in his hands. 

"Fve never had much chance," returned the 
boy, "elxcept on the Fall River Line, or fishing 
off Nantucket and that sort of thing." 

Sherwood made no answer. He had moved 



The Blue Diamond 7 

%: slightly and through the mirror Dick saw that 

gv he was stripping off the rubber bands that se- 

p cured a small, rough-looking package wrapped 

in newspaper. Swiftly the paper wrapping fell 
i away, and out of an inner covering of tissue 

r : Sherwood's deft fingers drew a small, stained 

ir: leather bag. 

For a moment the man stood oddly motion- 
iv less, holding the leather bag between his fingers. 

Then another slight movement of his body ob- 
scured the mirrored vision. An instant later 
i he gave a queer, low, startled cry which brought 

t Dick swiftly to his feet. 

"What is it, Kent?'' he asked anxiously. 
"What's the matter?" 
I "Shut the door," said Sherwood in a strange 

j voice. 

Bewildered, the boy hastened to obey. 
When he had closed the door leading into the 
corridor and turned the key, he wheeled quickly 
around and was startled at the sight of his 
friend's face. 
It was whiter than the ivory-tinted wall be- 



8 The Emerald Buddha 

hind him, with lines of tension about the mouth 
and jaw. There was a glitter of excitement in 
his wide, dark eyes which set the boy*s heart to 
fluttering. For a moment he could not seem 
to speak, and Dick noticed that the fingers of 
one hand were clenched so tightly that the 
knuckles made dots of white against the brown 
skin. Then suddenly he thrust the hand for- 
ward, the fingers unclosing abruptly. 

"Look !" he exclaimed unsteadily. 

Dick caught his breath and bent forward, 
staring in dazed bewilderment at the amazing 
object which lay there in the other's slightly 
shaking palm. 

It was a monstrous jewel like nothing he had 
ever even dreamed of. Shaped like a bisected 
tgg and almost as large, superbly cut and pol- 
ished, its brilliancy was flawless. The color 
was a wonderful electric blue, that seemed to 
pale and deepen as one viewed it from different 
angles. 

"Great snakes!" gasped Warrender. "Wa 
— ^what is it ?" 



tr 



The Blue Diamond g 

'*A diamond," answered Sherwood curtly. 

Dick's jaw sagged. "A diamond the size of 
— that !" he stammered incredulously. 

Kent nodded. "Exactly." 

"But where on earth did you get it ? Where 
did it come from ?" 

Sherwood's face had resumed its normal 
color and his usual cool, collected manner was 
rapidly returning. 

I don't know," he said quietly. 
Tou don't know!" repeated Dick dazedly. 
"Why, how—" 

"I don't know an)rthing about it," Kent 
stated, as the boy paused. "I never saw the 
thing before in my life." 

Had Warrender known his cousin less well 
he would have suspected him of lying. His 
knowledge of precious stones was no greater 
than the average, but he felt instinctively that 
this must be one of the famous diamonds of the 
world — ^the sort of stone which is never seen 
save behind iron bars or in the impregnable 
treasuries of kings or sultans. Yet there it lay 



10 The Emerald Buddha 

familiarly in Kent's hand, glittering, glowing, 
palpitating with a strange, fascinating, almost 
sinister fire. 

'*But how — " began the boy, bewildered. 

"I mean just that," broke in Sherwood. "I 
found it just now in one of the side pockets of 
my coat. It wasn't there when we left the 
train. That's all I can tell you." 

"You mean somebody put it there?" 

Sherwood's eyes twinkled. "Somebody 
must have," he returned. "But who, or how, 
or why, or when, I haven't the most remote 
idea." 

Dick stared blankly at the gorgeous blue 
jewel which seemed at once entirely concrete, 
yet curiously unreal. 

"But why?" he burst out suddenly in a baffled 
tone. "It's the wildest thing I ever heard of. 
Wasn't there anything in the wrapper that 
would explain — some letter or something, I 



mean r 



?" 



By Jove!" exclaimed Sherwood. "You 



Ld 



The Blue Diamond ii 

have got your head screwed on all right. I 
never thought to look." 

Placing the diamond carefully on the dress- 
ing table, he caught up the layers of paper that 
had enveloped it and plucked them apart. Al- 
most at once his fingers encountered something 
hard and he drew forth a heavy, flat piece of 
dully gleaming gold little more than an inch 
long and rather less in width. It was covered 
with worn, ancient looking characters, and one 
edge was rough and jagged as if it had been 
broken forcibly across. 



CHAPTER II 



MYSTERY 



Sherwood gave the curious object a hurried, 
puzzled glance and then turned his attention to 
a scrap of paper, closely written over, which he 
had discovered at almost the same moment. It 
was done in pencil on a sheet torn apparently 
from a small note book ; but in spite of evident 
haste the extraordinary communication was 
clearly legible. 

'Kent Sherwood," it ran — 

Tou are intrusted with this jewel by one 
who knows you. Preserve it with the utmost 
secrecy and surrender it only to the possessor 
of the other half of the gold coin. You are on 
the way to Calcutta, and it may be that the di- 
amond will be claimed in that city, though noth- 
ing is certain. In the meantime confide in no 
one. Should it become known that you possess 






12 



Mystery 13 

the diamond, incredible disaster would surely 
follow/' 

The lines ended at the bottom of the page 
and Kent turned quickly, expecting some added 
explanation, or at least a signature. But the 
other side of the sheet was blank. He looked 
at Warrender with a baffled, irritated expres- 



sion. 



Thunder!" he exclaimed angrily. "Did 
you ever know anything more aggravating?" 

"I still don't understand," sighed Dick. "I 
suppose it was slipped into your pocket either at 
the station or on the dock ; there were crowds in 
both places. But you didn't see anyone you 
know, did you ?" 

"Certainly not. Unfortunately there are a 
good many people floating around who know 
me by sight. Just because dad happens to be 
somebody in the financial world, a lot of silly 
papers stick my picture in their* Sunday supple- 
ments and print all sort of rot about my plans. 
I dare say that's how it was known we were 
bound for Calcutta." 



14 The Emerald Buddha 

"It all seems awfully complicated," remarked 
Warrender. "Why do you suppose this per- 
son, whoever he was, was so anxious to get rid 
of the diamond? Do you believe he stole it?" 

"From whom?" demanded Sherwood. 
"Don't you realize, old man, that a theft like 
that would be instantly blazoned all over the 
world? Besides, this stone is entirely un- 
known to history. Precious stones are very 
much of a hobby of mine, and I know what I'm 
talking about. The only blue diamond of any 
size is the Hope, and that's not half as large as 
this. Of course some of the wealthy Indian 
Rajahs are supposed to have wonderful collec- 
tions of jewels locked up in their palaces that 
nobody knows anything about, and some of the 
temples — " 

He paused, a sudden, troubled expression 
flashing into his face. 

"Well ?" prodded Dick curiously. 

"I only hope it isn't one of those," said Sher- 
wood gravely. "They're frightfully sacred, 
you know, and the Brahmin priests are terrible 



Mystery 15 

fanatics. If a diamond belonging to one of 
their idols was stolen, they'd be like blood- 
hounds on the trail. They'd literally never 
give up ; and I don't suppose there's a nation on 
earth that holds human life so lightly." 

Dick shivered. "Gosh!" he exclaimed. 
"Can't you get rid of it right away, Kent? 
Couldn't you turn it over to — the police?" 

Sherwood smiled oddly and motioned toward 
one of the portholes. And Warrender, staring 
through the thick glass at the slowly moving 
harbor panorama, realized with a start of sur- 
prise that the great ship was in motion. 

"Too late," shrugged Kent. "Besides, that 
wouldn't be very sporting, would it? For all 
we know the fellow who wished it on me may be 
the real owner. At least, until it's proved to be 
stolen property, I don't see how I can give it up 
except to someone producing the other half of 
the coin. Funny looking coin, by the way, isn't 
it?" 

In its original state the gold piece must have 
looked more like a slug than an ordinary coin. 



1 6 The Emerald Buddha 

It was very old, and the characters on it some- 
what resembled Sanscrit. Beyond that Sher- 
wood was unable to identify it. 

"It might have come from almost anywhere 
in the East," he remarked, wrapping it in a bit 
of paper and dropping it into the leather bag 
where he had already replaced the diamond. 
"Well, I guess the purser's safe is the best place 
for this. With it stowed away there we won't 
have to worry for a while at least. And after 
all, we must remember one thing. The fellow 
has played us a dirty trick, and I'd wring his 
neck with pleasure, but he's certainly managed 
the business cleverly. As a matter of fact, 
there isn't a chance in a thousand of anyone 
knowing we've got the thing." 

It did seem as if this were indeed the case. 
Kent placed the bag in a pasteboard box, 
wrapped it in stout paper and sealed it care- 
fully with wax. When this was safely de- 
posited with the purser they were both con- 
scious of a feeling of relief which increased as 




Mystery ly 

the days passed without a ripple to disturb the 
placid serenity of the voyage. 

The weather was uncommonly fine and they 
spent much time in their deck chairs frankly 
loafing. They met a number of pleasant people 
and now and again joined in the games and 
various amusements and entertainments of the 
ship. But for the most part they did nothing 
whatever, and the way Dick took on color and 
weight more than justified his cousin's choice of 
this longer route to the Indian city where he 
was going on important business connected 
with the Sherwood banking firm. 

At Yokohama, where the steamer docked for 
two days, the two went ashore for a little sight- 
seeing. 

"Just to take the edge oflF your appetite," re- 
marked Sherwood, as they landed. "Once this 
business with the Calcutta branch is settled, 
we'll have time to burn and can jog around ex- 
actly as we like. But until then we'll have to 
stick fairly close to schedules." 



20 The Emerald Buddha 

his glance followed a picturesque Japanese fish- 
ing boat coming down with the tide. "All the 
same/* he thought inconsistently, "I'll be 
mighty glad when we shake him at Calcutta." 

An hour later when the steamer had 
anchored and was coaling from a number of 
barges brought alongside, the two men joined 
Warrender at the rail to watch the transference 
of passengers from a tug which had put out to 
them from the city. 

There were a scant dozen of these, and quite 
the most noticeable was a slim, slight figure clad 
in rich Indian silks, his head bound with a tur- 
ban of spotless white above which glittered an 
aigrette of jewels. He was attended by two 
more simply clad natives and just as he reached 
the deck he glanced upward for an instant at 
the group above. It was the most fleeting of 
glances, but as Dick caught the flash of his 
dark eyes, and noted the slim curve of throat 
and chin and the tiny black moustache, there 
suddenly came to him a vivid recollection of 



Mystery 21 

that other Hindu, with his battered felt hat and 
rough, incongruous. Western clothes, who had 
passed them in the crowded Vancouver station 
nearly three weeks ago. 

"By Jove !" exclaimed Sherwood interestedly. 
"Some class to him. Looks like a Rajput, 
Asher." 

Sir Henry's left eye gave a characteristic 
twitch and the monocle slid dangling to the end 
of its cord. "I dare say," he drawled, turning 
away indifferently. "Those chaps travel about 
the world a lot nowadays. Can't we make up a 
rubber in the smoking room, old fellow?" 

But Sherwood was not in the humor for 
bridge, and after a casual remark or so the bar- 
onet left them. His back was scarcely turned 
before Kent moved closer to the boy. 

"Odd those Hindus coming aboard this par- 
ticular boat," he murmured. 

Dick glanced at him sidewise. "You don't 
think they're connected with — " 

"Probably not. As Asher says, they do 



r — -, 






^ Tt a rnjc ^iDfc 1» do 






WarrcryJer od act i p:"JLre T]st then what 
tint job nrght be. He had an idea it was an- 
ncctfd vith the mysterioiis diamond, and later 
m dieir stateroom Kent confirmed the guess. 

At Hongkong they would leave the Empress 
of Asia and transfer to the British India boat 
for Calcutta, This would necessitate taking 
the diamond from the safe and carrying it for a 
more or less lengthy period of time in their lug- 
gage or on their persons. Sherwood still felt 
that no one even suspected the jewel to be in 
their possession, but he meant to take no 
chunccs. After considerable thought he de- 
cided that Dick, being a bi\v, could carry the 
utDne with urcutcr sufcty than himself, and 
forthwith he imxwiW at odd times to hollow 
out ^ krjjt^ cavity in th<^ heel of one of War- 
rtt\der\>i >>^h\y\^ ami a v^nwHer one in the other, 
- ^^l^\r iIk^ \\miC h<^ exj^Uined, ^^vhidi is al- 




Mystery 23 

« 

most as important to us as the diamond. Any 
clever thief can pick your pocket, but it takes a 
genius to get the shoe off your foot without 
your knowing it/' 



CHAPTER III 



THE PIRAtE LAUNCH 




Up to the very last twenty-four hours the 
remainder of the voyage to Hongkong was un- 
eventful. They saw nothing further of the 
young Indian potentate, who proved to be a son 
of the Nizam of Chotanagpore returning from 
a tour of China and Japan. He kept his cabin 
for the entire voyage, waited on by his two ser- 
vants, both of whom Dick encountered more 
than once in various parts of the ship. 

The night before landing there had been a 

farewell concert in the saloon and afterward 

Sir Henry had been rather insistent that Kent 

smoke a cigar with him on deck before turning 

in. He seemed to be making a special effort to 

be pleasant to Warrender, and for the first time 

Dick had to admit that he really could be very 

decent when he wanted to. 

24 



The Pirate Launch 25 

It was thus uncommonly late when they 
sought their cabin. To every outward appear- 
ance everything in the stateroom seemed to be 
in perfect order, but presently they both began 
to be conscious of trifling, yet significant, 
changes. One of Sherwood's coats, for in- 
stance, was not just where he had left it, but a 
little further down the rack. There was a 
slight disarrangement ' of some linen in a 
drawer. Worst of all, the precious shoes, 
which Dick distinctly remembered placing in a 
certain position, in the locker, had been moved. 

"Well; it's come," said Sherwood quietly, 
when he had made certain that the cabin had 
been searched. "Did they find the holes?" 

Dick looked up from the shoe he was examin- 
ing. "I don't think so. The inner sole is 
pasted down just as you left it." 

"We'll have to take a chance," decided Kent, 
after a momentary pause. "There's no time to 
dope out any other hiding place. I suppose it 
was one of those Hindus. I'd give a lot to 
know how they got wise." 



26 The Emerald Buddha 

"That one we saw in Vancouver," hazarded 
Dick. "You don't suppose he could have come 
over on this boat V 

"He might have— steerage. Or he could 
easily have cabled to confederates in Japan. 
These people all stick together. Well, there's 
no use losing sleep over what can't be helped. 
We'll simply have to keep our eyes peeled for 
trouble in the future. Luckily this steamer 
doesn't start back until the last of the week, so 
I'll leave the diamond in the safe here until just 
before we take the B. I. boat. We've a wait of 
three days in Hongkong, and it would never do 
to carry the thing around with us all that time." 

It was a f ortimate precaution. They landed 
about noon next day and went straight to a 
hotel with their luggage. Sir Henry Asher 
accompanied them, but there was no sign of the 
young Indian Rajah amongst the disembarking 
throng. After lunch they sallied forth to make 
a partial tour of the city, which Dick found 
rather disappointing. Everything seemed 




The Pirate Launch 27 

most modern and up to date, and save for the 
picturesque Orientals crowding the streets and 
shops, he might have been in New York or San 
Francisco. 

It was dusk when they returned to the hotel, 
entering by a side door, Sherwood went 
straight to the desk to see if any mail had come, 
but Dick lingering behind, happened to glance 
into a small, remote reception room and paused, 
arrested by the glimpse of two men talking 
together in a further corner. 

The lights had not yet been turned on there 
and for the most part the room lay in shadows. 
But certainly the smaller man wore a white tur- 
ban with a jewelled aigrette, and something 
about the taller, dominating figure beside him 
reminded the boy instantly of — Sir Henry 
Asher. 

Then both men moved swiftly out of sight 
and Warrender passed on, troubled and per- 
plexed. He said nothing to Sherwood of his 
discovery. He was too uncertain of what he 



28 The Emerald Buddha 

had seen, and he felt, moreover, that Kent 
would merely laugh and refer to his marked 
prejudice for the Englishman. 

But when they returned next evening from a 
trip up to "The Peak" and found unmistakable 
evidence that their room had been thoroughly 
overhauled in their absence, he was strongly 
tempted to mention the incident. Still he kept 
silent. After all no real harm had been done. 
The diamond was safe aboard the Empress of 
Asia, and ever since coming ashore he had been 
careful to wear the shoes with the hollowed 
heels. 

Nevertheless he slept poorly that night. 
And all next day he was oppressed by an un- 
derlying feeling of anxiety and suspense. If 
only they were safe aboard the B. I. boat and 
the beastly diamond turned over to the purser ! 
He did not half enjoy the day's excursion, on 
isher accompanied them, and by the 
Y were back in the hotel he had worked 
into a state of nervous tension difficult 
>1- 



The Pirate Launch 29 

They were late getting back, due mainly to 
Sir Henry's desire to take in all the points of 
interest of Kawloon, the beautiful western 
suburb. The steamer sailed early next morn- 
ing and Sherwood's plan was to go aboard that 
night. After a hurried dinner, they sent the 
liiggage to the pier and took a rickshaw down to 
the waterfront, where a small launch was en- 
gaged to take them out to the Empress of Asia, 
lying at anchor half a mile from shore. 

Everjrthing went off so smoothly that even 
Dick's nervous apprehension was soothed in- 
sensibly. Sherwood received the sealed packet 
from the purser, and retiring to a secluded spot, 
they transferred the diamond to the hollow in 
one of Warrender's shoes and the broken coin 
to the other. The launch was waiting at the 
side, and when they had settled themselves com- 
fortably in the stern the Chinese boatman 
started the engine and headed for the distant 
row of lights that outlined the waterfront. 

The wide harbor, faintly luminous under the 
stars, was dotted with the lights of many 



30 The Emerald Buddha 

anchored ships. Lower down other moving 
sparks told of launches and various small craft 
threading their way about the populous water 
thoroughfare, and the chugging of engines, 
near and distant, added to that pleasant sense of 
security which the presence of other human 
beings always brings. Another twenty 
minutes and they would be quite safe, Dick 
thought. And then, happening to glance 
astern, he was startled to see emerging from the 
shadows in their wake, a long, slim, high-pow- 
ered motor boat approaching at full speed. 

She carried no lights, and for an instant the 
boy stared fascinated at the shadowy shape so 
swiftly overtaking them. Then he caught 
Sherwood's arm and cried out sharply. Kent 
turned quickly. 

"Look out !" he shouted, springing to his feet. 
"Sheer off, you idiots, or you'll run us down!" 

There was no answer, and Sherwood shouted 
again, this time in sort of mongrel Chinese, in 
which, as with several other Eastern languages, 
he was surprisingly fluent. Still the warning 



The Pirate Launch 31 

was unheeded; on rushed the strange boat, 
heading straight for them. Dick had a fleeting 
glimpse of the cockpit crowded with sinister, 
crouching figures ; saw Sherwood reach swiftly 
for his automatic. An instant later the other 
launch struck them slantingly with a crash and 
an avalanche of half-naked coolies with swart, 
ugly faces and glinting, evil eyes, swarmed 
down upon them, 

Warrender was flung into the cockpit by the 
onru3h. He heard Kent's gun spit viciously, 
the sound of shots echoing across the water. 
He tried to gain his feet, but already he was 
half smothered by the weight of reeking, naked 
bodies pressing on him. From above came 
grunts and groans and the thud of blows, domi- 
nated by Kent's voice, hoarse and raging. 
Suddenly a piercing shriek rose high above the 
other bedlam, changing abruptly to a horrible, 
sobbing sort of gurgle. The boy writhed fran- 
tically, putting all his strength into a desperate 
effort to free himself. He managed to loosen 
one arm, but two men at least pinned his body 



32 The Emerald Buddha 

down and held his helpless. And then, all at 
once, he felt a stealthy hand tugging at the laces 
of his right shoe — ^the shoe in whose hollowed 
heel reposed the blue diamond! 



CHAPTER IV 



STOLEN 



Gritting his teeth to choke back the cry of 
apprehension that rose instinctively to his lips 
Dick kicked out furiously and managed to jerk 
his foot free for an instant. But swiftly it was 
gripped again, by two hands this time, and he 
felt the laces begin to give. Abruptly they 
snapped, and at the realization that in another 
moment the treasure would be gone, a sort of 
frenzy seized the boy. With an amazing effort 
he heaved up his body, dislodging one of the 
coolies who held him down, and succeeded in 
dragging his right foot under the other knee. 

A second later he was conscious of a rattling 
roar like the exhaust of a power boat running 
at full speed. Someone shouted — sl strange 
voice speaking English. From the coolies came 
shrill cries of warning and like a miracle the 

33 



^ 



34 The Emerald Buddha 

crushing weight of bodies lifted. Panting, his 
head half submerged in a pool of water that was 
rising in the cockpit, the boy struggled up in 
time to see the pirate launch sheering rapidly 
away from them, the last coolie aboard clinging 
to the rail with one foot dragging in the water. 

The blinding glare of a searchlight streaked 
across the boat, its white light bringing into 
strong relief the figure of Sherwood, dis- 
hevelled, bloodstained, his automatic clutched 
by the barrel, dangling from his limp fingers. 
Shoulders drooping, chest heaving, he leaned 
against the side, and with a horrible sinking of 
his heart, Dick stumbled over to him. 

''Kent !" he gasped. "Are you— hurt ?" 

Sherwood shook his head. "Not much," he 
panted. "Only— all— in." 

"Boat ahoy!" rapped out a sharp, incisive 
voice. "Who are you and what's up ?" 

The searchlight flickered away and one of the 
trim, efiicient, powerful launches of the Harbor 
Police glided alongside. 

"We've been attacked — ^by pirates," ex- 



Stolen 35 

plained Sherwood in a clearer voice. "The 
boat is stove in and sinking. Will you take us 
aboard ?" 

A young officer dropped over the side and 
glanced keenly around. "Rather a mess," he 
commented, thrusting with one foot at the mo- 
tionless body of a coolie lying face downward in 
the rapidly rising water. "Better get aboard at 
once. We'll hear your story afterward." 

They lost no time in obeying his suggestion, 
and were joined by the frightened owner of the 
launch, who had taken refuge in the cabin. A 
line was made fast to the disabled boat, and as 
they proceeded slowly toward the shore Sher- 
wood explained briefly what had happened, 
omitting, however, any reference to the dia- 
mond. 

"A rum business," commented the officer 
when he had finished. "I don't understand 
their attacking a small boat like this. You say 
they got nothing?" 

Kent shot a momentary questioning glance 
at Warrender, who slightly shook his head. 



36 The Emerald Buddha 

"Nothing whatever," he returned. "You 
showed up just in time. By the way, I hope 
this isn't going to delay us. We have passage 
on the B, I. boat for Calcutta, sailing tomorrow 
morning." 

For a time it seemed as if there might be 
annoying complications. But finally the diffi- 
culty was solved by a signed statement from 
Sherwood giving the details of the outrage, and 
the production of unimpeachable references 
both of a business and political sort. This set- 
tled, and having paid the Chinaman for the 
damage done his boat, they went aboard their 
steamer, where Sherwood's first act was to seal 
up the diamond and place it in the purser's safe. 
Then and only then, they sought their cabin, 
attended to a slight cut in Kent's shoulder, and 
turned in at once to sleep the sleep of utter ex- 
haustion. 

In the calm, placid, almost monotonous days 
that followed, the thrilling harbor experience 
seemed to Dick more and more like a dream. 



Stolen 37 

The sense of security, the lazy lounging on 
decki the commonplace chatter of the passen- 
gers, all combined to thrust that strange adven- 
ture into the seemingly remote past. Then 
came Singapore and Penang, with their first 
real glimpse of the languid, romantic, myste- 
rious East to distract the boy's mind still 
further. He even grew more tolerant toward 
Sir Henry Asher, and though he still regarded 
the Englishman with a vague suspicion, he 
could not see how it was possible for the man to 
commit any further deviltry even if he wished. 

In this wise the voyage passed on to its pre- 
destined end and one morning they came on 
deck to find the steamer plowing through the 
turbulent yellow waters of the Hooghly River. 
Diamond Harbor was already well astern 
and they were due to land at Calcutta before 
noon. 

For a space Sherwood and Sir Henry paced 
the deck chatting; then the baronet strolled 
away to say farewell to some of his many ac- 



38 The Emerald Buddha 

quaintances. A little later the other two went 
below to pack, and they were still in the midst 
of this operation when there was a tap on the 
door and Asher entered. 

"Just looked in to make sure of your hotel, 
old chap," he drawled, standing with his back to 
the door. "The Great Eastern, wasn't it? I 
find I'll have to make a flying jump ashore the 
minute we land, but I'll see you to-night at din- 
ner. Ta-ta 'till then." He eyed Dick genially 
through his monocle. "Looking forward to 
your first taste of India, me lad ? You'll find it 
deucedly interesting, I expect." 

When he had departed, closing the door be- 
hind him, Dick glanced at Sherwood and 
sniffed. "Me lad !" he mimicked. "I wonder 
if there was ever a regular fellow who didn't 
hate being called that ?" 

Kent laughed. "You've certainly got it in 
for him," he chuckled. "Well, you won't have 
to put up with him much longer. We're not 
likely to be here more than ten days at the long- 
est." 



Stolen 39 

They finished packing just as the steamer 
warped into the dock. Sherwood had pur- 
posely dawdled, for he wanted to wait until the 
press of passengers were off the ship before se- 
curing the diamond and placing it in the soft 
leather money belt he wore next to his skin. 
This time, he felt, there would be no possibility 
of a slip-up. It was broad daylight, and he 
had only to take a motor car from the dock di- 
rectly to the bank, where the treasure could be 
deposited with perfect security. From one of 
the portholes they had a partial view of the 
gang-plank, with its mass of hurrying passen- 
gers. When the crowd seemed to be thinning 
out, Kent decided to wait no longer. 

"You may as well come with me," he said, as 
he strolled over to the door. "I've got my gun 
in my pocket, but — " He paused and gave the 
knob a twist. "That's funny," he observed. 

"Is it stuck ?" asked Dick. 

Kent rattled the handle again and shook the 
door with all his strength. Suddenly his hands 
fell to his sides and he turned to Warrender. 



40 The Emerald Buddha 

"It's locked/' he said in a queer voice. "The 
key's gone from this side." 

For a long moment the two regarded one an- 
other with swiftly growing apprehension. 
Both remembered perfectly that when they last 
entered Sherwood placed the key on the inside 
of the door, thinking he might want to lock it 
later while disposing of the diamond. One per- 
son only had passed through since then — 

"Asher!" exclaimed Dick suddenly. "He 
stood there with his back against the door. He 
might easily have — " 

"Ring for the steward — quick !" interrupted 
Kent sharply. 

Warrender placed on finger on the button and 
held it there, while Sherwood pounded the pan- 
els with both fists. Such an uproar could not 
long remain unheard. Presently the sound of 
hurrying footsteps came from the corridor, fol- 
lowed by a tap and the breathless voice of their 
steward. 

"We're locked in," explained Sherwood 



Stolen 41 

curtly. "Open the door as quickly as you can." 

"There's no key here, sir." 

"Get the master key from the head steward, 
then," ordered Kent sharply. "Don't lose a 
minute." 

The delay seemed interminable before the 
footsteps sounded again, a key clicked in the 
lock and the door swung open. Sherwood 
darted through, followed by Dick, brushed past 

* 

the bewildered steward without a word, and 
dashed for the stairway. In less than a minute 
he was standing before the purser's desk. 

"Your packet, Mr. Sherwood ?" repeated that 
official in a puzzled tone. "But it was delivered 
to you half an hour ago." 

"Nonsense !" retorted Kent. "I haven't left 
my cabin for over an hour." 

The purser nodded. "I know. That's what 
Sir Henry Asher said when he brought your 
order for its delivery and a signed receipt. He 
told me you were busy packing and had asked 
him to fetch the package to you." 



42 The Emerald Buddha 

"Order! Receipt!" Sherwood glared at 
the man. "Let me see them." 

With a troubled expression the purser opened 
a drawer, ftmibled there a moment and then 
placed on the desk two oblong sheets of paper. 
Bending forward, Kent stared in amazement at 
the signatures so perfect that he would have 
owned them anywhere as his, read the brief 
documents and flung them down with a harsh 
laugh. 

"I never wrote them !" he stated succintly* 

The man turned pale. "But — ^but — " he 
stammered. "I— I verified them from your 
card. And Sir Henry Asher a well known 
diplomat — " 

"A diplomat — and a thief!" rasped Sher- 
wood. His eyes flashed and he whirled around 
to Warrender. "Get our hats and the small 
black bag, Dick, and meet me at the gang- 
plank," he snapped. "Hurry, now." 

Dick flew up the stairs and in less than three 
minutes had joined Sherwood at the gangplank. 



Stolen 43 

The latter slapped on his hat and together they 
left the ship and hurried along the dock. 

"He was one of the first ashore," said Kent 
bitterly. "That fool of a purser! But of 
course there was no use being nasty with him ; it 
wouldn't get us back the diamond." 

"What are you going to do?" asked Dick 
eagerly. 

"Follow! You don't suppose Fm going to 
let him put this over without a fight, do you ?" 



CHAPTER V 



PURSUIT 



From that moment Dick was treated to a 
phase of Sherwood's character which had hith- 
erto been not much in evidence. The careless, 
easy-going man of the world gave place 
abruptly to the keen, incisive, capable man of 
action. Outside the dock he walked up to the 
crowd of natives lounging in the sun, and in 
sharp, fluent Hindustani described Asher and 
asked if any one had seen him pass. Either his 
manner or the sight of the sovereign in his hand 
quickened the throng into instant, chattering 
life. It presently appeared that one of them 
had not only observed the Englishman hustle 
into a motor, but overheard his direction' to the 
driver. 

Kent flicked the gold coin into the eager, 
reaching hands and turning, thrust Dick into a 

44 



Pursuit 45 

waiting motor. The boy had scarcely time to 
take a long breath before they were speeding 
over the long, level road paralleling the river 
bank. 

Whirling along through the scorching, humid 
heat, Dick caught glimpses of rich green veg- 
etation, of rows of mud huts varied now and 
then by larger buildings, of muffled female fig- 
ures standing in doorways, or groups of naked 
children playing in the dirt. The docks lay to 
the south of the city, and as they approached 
the latter the habitations grew more crowded, 
the way more congested. Presently they were 
twisting through streets lined with warehouses, 
bazaars, colorful small shops and filled with a 
picturesque multitude of people. The driver, a 
stalwart, efficient looking Sikh, threaded his 
way unerringly and with the greatest skill 
through what seemed an incredibly populous 
labyrinth, and at last swung out upon the great 
floating bridge over the Hooghly. 

Sherwood seemed too preoccupied to talk, 
and beyond informing Dick that Asher had 



46 The Emerald Buddha 

headed for the railroad terminus at Howrah on 
the other side of the river, he said little. When 
they finally drew up at the station, he told the 
boy to wait and hurried in to the ticket office. 
Within ten minutes he was back, frowning and 
thoughtful. 

"He bought a ticket for Jaipaig^ri, over three 
hundred miles up country,'' Kent explained 
briefly. "The train left twenty minutes ago 
and there isn't another until tomorrow morn- 
ing." 

For a moment or two he stood there thinking. 
Then his glance sought the clean-cut, impassive 
face of the Sikh driver and rested there apprais- 
ingly. 

"Your name ?" he asked suddenly in Hindu- 
stani. 

"Bhop Lai, sahib." 

"You own this car?" 

"Yes, sahib." 

"Would you be willing to take us up country, 
to Jaipaiguri perhaps ? We must start at once 
and we should have to speed. But I will pay 



Pursuit 47 

you better than you have ever been paid be- 
fore/' 

The Sikh turned his head and for a long mo- 
ment his level brown eyes gazed searchingly 
into Sherwood's. Then he inclined his tur- 
baned head gravely. 

"As the Hazoor wishes/' he said quietly. 

"Good !" exclaimed Sherwood, his face light- 
ing with satisfaction. "You'll need gas, I sup- 
pose, and oil. While you're getting it, I'll have 
them put up a basket of provisions so we won't 
be delayed by stopping. Come back here for us 
as quickly as you can." 

The Sikh nodded and swung his car away 
from the building while Sherwood and War- 
render hastened inside. Kent changed some 
English notes for gold and silver coin at the 
ticket office, procured a basket of provisions, 
and they returned to the place of meeting just 
as Bhop Lai drew the car up at the side of the 
road. 

"We're in luck with this man," Sherwood ob- 
served in a low tone, as they settled back in 



48 The Emerald Buddha 

the tonneau. "The Sikhs are the finest type of 
Indians going. They don't know what fear is, 
and they're thoroughly trustworthy, which is 
more than you can say for some of the others/' 
He paused a moment and glanced quizzically at 
Dick. "You haven't once said T told you so,' " 
he commented. 

Warrender looked blank; then he laughed. 
"Oh, about Asher, you mean ? No use rubbing 
it in, is there? Besides, I've got an awfully 
guilty feeling for not saying anything about 
something I thought I saw at Hongkong." 

Briefly he told of the darkened reception 
room at the hotel and the two figures he had 
glimpsed therein. Sherwood listened interest- 
edly. 

"Hum !" he commented. "I don't believe it 
would have made any difference. You weren't 
really certain, and I should probably have 
laughed. You see, I was so dead sure the man 
was all right. I still don't see how he put it 
over. Sir Henry Asher is really a well known 
British diplomat. I remembered the name and 



Pursuit 49 

the purser confirmed me. He'd never other- 
wise have given up the diamond/' 

"You mean this fellow impersonated him ?" 
"He must have — ^unless the real Sir Henry 
has gone mad. Fancy the colossal nerve and 
cleverness necessary to palm yourself off for a 
man who must have a host of friends in the 
East, any one of whom might turn up at the 
most awkward moment." 

By this time the car had left Howrah and 
was speeding northward along a rutty country 
road. Like a winding ribbon it lay across the 
flat plain, flanked by endless stretches of richly 
cultivated fields. Mud villages dotted its mar- 
gins, or isolated huts, each one of which seemed 
to house a veritable horde of people. At rare 
intervals a marble mosque dome hung against 
the distant horizon, its delicate outlines waver- 
ing in the brilliant sunshine seeming fairylike 
and unreal. Constantly they passed people 
afoot, driving in tongas, or walking beside 
primitive, slow-moving wooden carts drawn by 
patient, stunted bullocks. 



50 The Emerald Btuldha 

Now and again they talked over the situation 
and tried to plan, but as Sherwood remarked, it 
was rather fruitless to plan when they had 
nothing whatever to go on. 

"We've simply got to hustle all we can and 
try to catch him up at Jaipaiguri," he said. "If 
we manage to do that Fm not worrying about 
the rest." 

At five o'clock the skies clouded over and it 
began to pour. Two hours later the road was 
impassable and they were forced to stop for the 
night at a small village where the accommoda- 
tions were primitive beyond imagination. 

It cleared toward morning and all day long 
they forged ahead through the hot, steaming 
atmosphere which wilted ever)rthing, including 
their spirits. Before noon they had crossed 
the Ganges, and though they were delayed by a 
detour for gas, they made such progress that 
Kent was in high spirits. 

He had persuaded Bhop Lai to let him take 
turns driving while the Sikh slept. Even al- 



Pursuit 51 

lowing for the slow speed of Indian trains they 
would be left far behind if they halted again for 
any length of time. 

The heavy downpour came on again late that 
afternoon, but they pushed ahead in spite of 
mud and roads which seemed like small rivers. 
They ate from the basket and did not pause until 
nearly eight when Kent took the wheel. A lit- 
tle later the rain ceased. At midnight, or 
thereabouts, the engine gave a wheeze and a 
sputter and stopped dead. 

Bhop Lai awoke instantly and was out in the 
road before the wheels had ceased to turn. To- 
gether he and Sherwood made a hasty inspec- 
tion and found to their dismay that they were 
up against ignition trouble, probably a short 
circuit caused by the deluge through which they 
had just passed. 

"Thunder !" exclaimed Kent irritably. 
"That'll take an hour at least to locate." 

"More likely two, sahib," put in the Sikh, 
who understood English fairly, though he could 



52 The Emerald Buddha 

not speak it well. "Perhaps the sahib had bet- 
ter sleep. One can correct the trouble as 
ea'sily as two." 

Sherwood did not answer immediately. He 
was surveying their surroundings, which 
seemed to him as desolate as any he had ever 
seen. Overhead the moon was struggling 
through wisps and scuds of ragged clouds and 
its wan light wrought ghostly tricks with the 
unfamiliar landscape. One side of the road 
was lined with tangled wild growth ; along the 
other ran a ruinous old wall of stone, above 
which the tops of trees crowded in thick luxuri- 
ance. Fifty feet or so beyond the spot where 
the car had stopped the wall was broken by an 
open gateway flanked by decayed and tottering 
stone pillars. Between them, where once a 
road had been, weeds grew waist high. 

"It is the palace of the dead Rajah of Hu- 
dam," explained Bhop Lai. "No one has dwelt 
there for many years. Half a mile beyond is 
the village with a poor inn. I have passed this 
way twice before, sahib." 



Pursuit 53 

"There's no use trying to sleep," declared 
Sherwood. "Suppose we take a walk up the 
road, Dick, and stretch our legs. If you're as 
stiff as I am, it'll be a relief." 

The boy acquiesced readily and together 
they strolled along the desolate track, careless 
of the mud which squelched up at every step. 
As Kent remarked, they were already so be- 
draggled that a little more dirt was of no con- 
sequence. 

Presently the moon broke clear of the tat- 
tered clouds and sailed serenely in the heavens, 
shedding a soft, silvery radiance over the silent 
landscape. By its added brilliancy they could 
make out a low hut or two on the left side of 
the road ahead, and on the other side a strag- 
gling, one-storied building, rather more pre- 
tentious with its setting of luxuriant, semi- 
tropic shrubs and creepers." 

"The inn, I expect," commented Sherwood. 
"Every one's asleep, of course." 

But his guess proved wrong. The small, ir- 
regular windows along the front were dark and 



54 The Emerald Buddha 

lifeless, but as they reached the further corner 
of the building Kent caught sight of a moving 
figure close to the side wall, and drew Warren- 
der swiftly back into the shadow. 



CHAPTER VI 



THE RING OF SHADOWS 



Just why he did so Sherwood could not have 
explained, save that the presence of any one 
abroad at such an hour seemed unnatural. 
Also there was a touch of stealthiness in the un- 
known's movements which made him presently 
peer curiously around the corner to see what 
was going on. 

Brightly illumined by the moon, two Hindus 
now were standing close beside a window mid- 
way down the length of the building. One of 
them held upright a long pole like a length of 
thick bamboo, and their heads were bent a little 
as if peering through the opening. Presently 
Kent saw them draw back a trifle and the one 
with the pole lowered it and thrust it forward 
with exceeding delicacy and caution. 

Bit by bit the pole slid through the window 
until only the butt of it remained in the native's 

is 



56 The Emerald Buddha 

hand. There came a pause, fraught somehow 
to Kent's keyed-up senses, with a curious, inex- 
plicable suspense. It was broken by a faint, 
hissing intake from one of the Hindus, and an 
instant later from the interior of the room 
issued a strange, low sound, half gasp, half 
strangled cry. Like a flash the pole was with- 
drawn and the two natives were crouching be- 
neath the window-sill when Sherwood burst im- 
pulsively upon them. 

His automatic was in one hand and Dick fol- 
lowed close behind him. The Hindus leaped up 
startled and stood hesitating for an instant as 
if debating whether or not to meet the attack. 
Finally they dropped the pole and fled swiftly 
into the thick growth back of the inn. 

Sherwood made no attempt to follow them. 
It would be useless, he knew, and already he 
was regretting the impulse which had made him 
interfere. At his feet lay the bamboo rod, 
twelve or fourteen feet long and unusually 
thick of girth. Unable to understand its pur- 
pose, he bent forward to examine the hollow 



The Ring of Shadows 57 

end when a sudden vicious hiss made him leap 
swiftly backward. 

An instant later a head, flat and venomous, 
appeared in the hollow. There was another 
hiss, and to their horror a snake writhed out of 
the opening and coiled before them, eyes gleam- 
ing evilly, and monstrous hooded head swaying 
slightly from side to side. 

"A cobra !" gasped Sherwood, dragging Dick 
back. "Great heavens !" 

Spellbound, they watched the creature glide 
swiftly away and vanish in some tall grass. 
Even after it had disappeared they stood mo- 
tionless, staring at one another with startled, 
questioning glances. 

"What — ^were they — doing with it?" mut- 
tered Warrender presently, in a queer, hoarse 
undertone. 

Sherwood did not answer. His eyes had 
shifted to the open window as if striving to 
penetrate to what the shadows hid. At length 
he moved toward it, but slowly, almost reluc- 
tantly, and peered into the room beyond. 



58 The Emerald Buddha 

It was still in there — deathly still. A patch 
of silvery moonlight lay on the dirt floor, bring- 
ing into faint relief the squalid little bare apart- 
ment. A low pallet occupied the middle space 
and on it, under some crumpled rugs, lay the 
figure of a man. 

For a long moment Kent stood motionless 
staring at that still figure, a cold chill stealing 
over him. Then, without a word to Dick, he 
thrust his automatic into the boy's hand and 
stepping over the low sill, he approached the 
bed. 

Somehow he did not need that closer look to 
realize the truth. Something had already told 
him that what lay there was all that remained 
of the man they had known as Sir Henry 
Asher. Gone was the smooth, silky moustache, 
the almost aggressive air of well-tubbed cleanli- 
ness. The immaculate garments had been re- 
placed by shapeless nondescripts, torn, ragged 
— filthy. The face — Kent drew a sudden 
sickened breath and averted his eyes. He 
could not bear to look on that distorted horror. 



The Ring of Shadows 59 

His first impulse was to fly instantly from the 
place. He had even taken a step or two toward 
the window when he remembered. The dia- 
mond ! Asher had been murdered for it — mur- 
dered cruelly and with the most diabolical inge- 
nuity ; but had there been time for his slayers to 
secure the treasure ? 

Sherwood thought not. And though it 
meant a tremendous, concentrated effort of 
will, he was presently bending again above the 
pallet, passing his shrinking hands swiftly and 
searchingly over the body. 

Suddenly he found what he was seeking. A 
little leather sack hung under the man's left 
arm, held there by a thong about his neck. 
Kent opened it with shaking fingers and drew 
forth the stone — a glowing, gorgeous mass of 
clear blue fire that sparkled radiantly in the 
moonlight. Quickly he thrust it back, 
crammed the bag into a side pocket, and 
scrambled through the window. 

"It was Asher," he said hoarsely. "They 
killed him with that cobra hidden in the bam- 



6o The Emerald Buddha 

boo. It was hideous — ^but they didn't get the 
diamond." He caught Warrender by an arm 
and hurried him toward the road. "We must 
get back to the car," he muttered. "They'll not 
stop at this; they may be watching us even 
now." 

Around the corner of the inn they fled and 
straight down the silent, deserted road. In 
snatches Kent told what he had found and 
seen. 

"He was disguised ... he must have left 
the train at a way station not far from here. 
. . . Perhaps he changed his plans, or Jaip- 
aiguri may have been just a blind. ... At all 
events, he's paid. Ah ! the car. If Bhop Lai's 
only finished, we can get out of this." 

But as they hurried forward the utter silence ^ 
of the place struck them with a chill forebod- 
ing. It was still — ^breathless. Reaching the 
car they found the hood open, a tool or two 
lying on the dashboard, but of the Sikh there 
was no sign. No sign, that is, at first. Pres- 
ently they found too many — crushed grass, 



The Ring of Shadows 6i 

broken bushes, a trampled circle in the mud, the 
mark of many alien feet. 

"Here, too !" muttered Sherwood. 

He straightened and glanced desperately 
around like a hunted animal that sees the toils 
inexorably closing. The shifting of the moon 
had brought the car into sharp relief. The 
road, too, was brighter, and gliding toward 
them from the village he glimpsed a number of 
swiftly moving shadows. Catching Warren- 
der by an arm, he drew him toward the ruined 
gateway. 

"There's just a chance," he whispered. "If 
we can hide. . . ." 

Another moment and they had plunged be- 
tween the tottering pillars into a gloomy tangle 
of shrubs and trees and creepers. Apparently 
the place had once been an elaborate garden, for 
here and there were glimpses of balustrades, 
arches, columns of white marble. But in the 
absence of tending hands, the luxuriant growth 
had run riot and only the weed-grown road was 
passable. 



.62 The Emerald Buddha 

As they sped forward along this unknown 
track, the diamond flopped against Kent's side 
and a sudden, furious hatred for the jewel came 
over him. For an instant he was strongly 
tempted to fling away the cause of all their 
troubles. But it was only an impulse. The 
diamond was not his own, and a certain dogged 
streak in his make-up impelled him to hold the 
trust — ^perplexing and dubious though it was — 
against almost any pressure. 

But there came a moment when that pressure 
strained his will almost to the breaking point. 
A hundred yards beyond the gate the road 
curved round a circular old fountain rimmed 
with moss-grown marble and filled to the brim 
by the constant rains. Beyond it, through a 
fringe of trees, a wide flight of steps led up to 
the front of an imposing building, looming 
white and glistening in the moonlight. 

Instinctively they halted and as they did so 
Kent saw a shadow flit across the terrace of the 
building and disappear. Another followed, 
and another still. Heart sinking, he glanced 



The Ring of Shadows 63 

swiftly back along the darkling road to see 
other shadows creeping forward stealthily. 
And of a sudden to his tense nerves the tangled 
wilderness that hemmed them in seemed full of 
watching eyes. 

"TheyVe got us," he muttered, in a low, 
tense whisper. 

Then like a flash of light a desperate thought 
came to him. Stung by the need of haste, he 
bent swiftly and snatched up a piece or two of 
broken marble. These he crammed into the 
bag which held the diamond^ jerked tight the 
drawstring, and to Dick's amazement, deliber- 
ately tossed the sack into the middle of the 
fountain. Scarcely waiting to see it sink, he 
hastened on along the road, the bewildered boy 
at his side. 

To Warrender it seemed as if his cousin had 
suddenly gone mad. Reaching the edge of the 
clearing before the ruined palace, he turned 
sharp to the right and sped along a stone- 
flagged walk. To be sure he kept close in the 
shadow of the spreading trees, but Dick felt 



64 The Emerald Buddha 

somehow that this was merely a pretence of 
concealment. The suspicion became a cer- 
tainty when Sherwood, mounting a slight slope, 
turned again abruptly and ran straight for the 
terrace steps. 

Half way up he stopped short, hesitated an 
instant, and finally with a quick sweep of one 
arm, dragged Dick down behind a great marble 
urn that stood there. 

"Look out !" he warned sharply. 

With a sudden flash of steel, a long knife 
arched glittering through the moonlight, struck 
the urn with a thud and clattered harmlessly to 
the pavement. Kent sprang to his feet and 
faced the terrace. 

"Stop!" he cried in Hindustani. "We sur- 
render." 

There was ^ brief pause. Then : "Place 
your weapons on the step above you," said a 
voice. 

Sherwood obeyed promptly and drew back. 
And as he did so, like a conjuring trick, that 
silent, ruined place awoke to life. On every 



The Ring of Shadows 65 

side dark, turbaned figures rose up silently. 
They came from behind bushes, out of the shad- 
ows of ruined arch or gaping doorway; it al- 
most seemed as if the very earth yielded its toll 
to make up that human ring which closed in 
swiftly upon the two standing together in the 
moonlight. A dozen feet away the forward 
movement halted and a tall, stately individual 
in flowing robes came on alone, his right hand 
outstretched, palm upward. 

"The diamond," he requested briefly. 
Sherwood drew a long breath. "I haven't 
it," he returned with equal brevity. 

For an instant the silence was intense. Then 
a sudden, concerted snarl rose from the circle 
of Hindus. The leader quelled it with a ges- 
ture. 

"I think you lie," he said simply. "Let them 
be searched." 

At the order a dozen natives stepped forward 
and in a surprisingly brief space Sherwood and 
Warrender, naked as they were born, shivered 
on the moonlit terrace while those supple, slim 



66 The Emerald Buddha 

brown fingers searched every fold and crevice 
of their garments. Nothing was found save 
the broken gold piece and the empty hollow in 
Dick's other shoe. 

"It was there !" accused the tall man, point- 
ing to the latter. "Where is it now?" 

Mentally Kent braced himself. "Where you 
will never find it," he answered, striving to keep 
his voice steady. 

What he expected he scarcely knew; cer- 
tainly it was not what actually did follow. For 
a long moment the leader stood motionless, 
searching his face with dark, keen, penetrating 
eyes. Then he made a strange gesture with his 
hands and turned away. 

"We shall see," he said curtly. "Dress !" 



CHAPTER VII 



THE EYE OF VISHNU 



Ten minutes later, clothed and surrounded 
by a silent guard of natives, they were being led 
through the ruined palace gardens. On the 
further side these opened into cultivated fields, 
beyond which lay another road running nearly 
at right angles to the one where they had left 
the car. Here they were forced to enter a 
primitive, open wagon drawn by two horses, a 
portion of the escort mounted, and the caval- 
cade set off at a rapid pace. 

It was not at all a pleasant journey. The 
way was rough and jolting, and very soon they 
struck into the hills and mounted steadily for 
hours. And all the while their keen mental 
worry was far worse than any possible physical 
discomfort could have been. What lay before 
them they had not even the most remote idea. 



68 The Emerald Buddha 

Sherwood, it is true, believed that as long as 
they kept the secret of the diamond's where- 
abouts their lives at least were safe. But he 
also knew that the Hindus, amongst other 
ancient Eastern people, are masters at the art 
of opening stubborn lips, and the prospect was 
not agreeable to contemplate. By the time day 
broke the nerves of both were strained almost 
to the breaking point. 

The cavalcade was still toiling through the 
hills and the country round about was wild and 
desolate. But just as the first rays of the sun 
shot above the ragged horizon, the wagon 
turned a rocky shoulder and an amazing edifice 
lay before them. 

Almost the entire surface of a wide plateau 
was covered by an immense square building 
surrounded by wide terraces and elaborate or- 
namental work of stone and marble. From 
each corner of the square, flat roof there rose 
graceful, four-sided towers like slender pyra- 
mids, each topped by a massive carved orna- 
ment shaped something like a partly opened 



f 



The Eye of Vishnu 69 

lotus flower. Imposing as these were, they 
seemed dwarfed and rendered insignificant by 
the enormous central tower which occupied the 
entire middle portion of the building and soared 
up hundreds of feet into the still, clear air. 

As they drew nearer they saw that every 
square foot of this stupendous building was 
covered with a lacy network of most amazing 
carving. Thousands of figures of strange gods 
and warriors, of men, beasts and birds mingled 
with fanciful designs and curious religious sym- 
bols, crowded its many courses, and the effect 
was beyond anything that even Sherwood, in 
all his travels, had ever seen. 

At the foot of the first terrace they left the 
wagon and were escorted up a great flight of 
wide, shallow steps to an entrance flanked by 
huge, rearing horses, richly caparisoned and 
ridden by men in armor. Beyond this lay an 
enormous hall, wide, lofty, spacious, lined with 
hundreds of massive stone monoliths, carved 
and painted. 

There were more corridors and halls, more 



yo The Emerald Buddha 

stairs, with everywhere that same bewildering 
lavishness of ornament executed in enduring 
stone. How many centuries of patient labor 
they represented no human being could esti- 
mate. At length, speechless with wonder, they 
were ushered into a small, square room, simply 
furnished in the Eastern style, which held but a 
single occupant. 

He was an old, old man, dressed in flowing 
robes that suggested some religious order. He 
did not move as they entered, but remained 
seated in an oddly shaped chair, his thin, veined 
hands resting motionless on the arms, while 
their conductor approached and engaged him 
for some moments in low-voiced, inaudible con- 
versation. 

But presently at a signal Kent approached, 
and as he drew near he was conscious of a curi- 
ous emotional disturbance. Hitherto he had 
been entirely on the defensive. The blue dia- 
mond had been intrusted to his keeping and he 
regarded any one who strove to take it from 
him forcibly as an enemy to be opposed by any 



The Eye of Vishnu 71 

possible means. Asher he considered one of 
these; so was the leader of the band who had 
brought them to this strange place. So, also, 
he had felt, up to a moment ago, must be this 
aged person with the lined and wrinkled face, 
whom intuitively he sensed to be the motive 
power behind them all. 

But now, looking into those limpid eyes, 
bright with life and purpose, yet veiled with a 
sort of wistful pathos, vague doubts began to 
rise disquieting within him. 

"Why will you not grant Holy Vishnu the 
blessed gift of sight, Stranger ?" the old man 
asked suddenly. 

Kent stared. "I — ^I don't understand," he 
stammered. 

"I speak of the sacred jewel you have hidden 
from us," said the old man, in a low, clear, sin- 
gularly penetrating voice. "To you it is a blue 
diamond merely — a stone of great price and 
beauty, doubtless, but nothing more. To us it 
is — something holy. It is the Eye of Vishnu ! 
For centuries it rested in the keeping of our 



72 The Emerald Buddha 

God, bringing peace, prosperity arid plenty on 
his worshippers. And then a score of years 
ago it vanished — ^stolen by a treacherous ser- 
vant on whom may curses eternal rest. Our 
priests and others sought for it fruitlessly until 
a little time ago. The young Nizam of Cho- 
tangpore himself spent many months in its pur- 
suit, disguised as a low-caste Hindu. And 
now, as success was crowning all their efforts, 
Fate intervenes again. You are that fate, 
White Stranger from across the waters. Is 
there nothing in your heart that beats respon- 
sive to our tribulations ? Can you think upon 
our desolated shrine and still be hard ?" 

Sherwood flushed crimson. "But I'm not — 
hard!" he protested impulsively. "The — ^the 
diamond isn't mine to give up. It was in- 
trusted to me by — " 

He broke off with a queer gasp and stared 
wide-eyed at a small ebony table standing beside 
the throned chair. A thin packet of papers lay 
there ; beside it was the broken coin which had 
been taken from Dick's shoe. But these things 



The Eye of Vishnu 73 

meant nothing to him. It was another object 
which riveted his amazed attention — ^a bit of 
dully gleaming gold, jagged along one side, so 
like the other piece that it was difficult to tell 
one from the other. 

"That — ^that gold piece!" cried Kent, point- 
ing eagerly. "Where did it come from?" 

The old man's dark, youthful eyes slanted 
obliquely to the stand, then travelled swiftly 
baok to Sherwood's face. 

"It belonged to a certain white man who once 
possessed the Eye," he explained quietly. "He 
met his end in a far country — suddenly. The 
Eye was gone, but whatever eke he had was 
brought to me. Why do you ask ?" 

"Because — Why, that's the signT Kent's 
voice quivered with excitement, "Don't you 
see? I was to surrender the diamond only to 
one who brought me the other half of that gold 
coin. And there it is !" 

Hastily the old man turned in his chair, 
caught up the two halves of the broken coin and 
fitted them together with trembling fingers. 



74 'I^f^ Emerald Buddha 

Then his thin, bent body straightened and over 
the wrinkled face there spread an amazing 
light. 

"Vishnu be praised!" he murmured. "And 
so — The Eye ? You will give it up ?" 

"Only too gladly. I think—" And Kent's 
lips curved in a pleasant, likable, relieved smile 
— "I think I should have done so in any case. 
It lies in a weighted leather sack beneath the 
waters of a round marble fountain in the gar- 
dens of the Rajah of Hudam." 

"You hear, Rajh Singh?" cried the old man 
tremulously. "Make haste! Go swiftly 
thither while the gods yet smile." 

With a low obeisance, the tall, robed Hindu 
hastened from the room, taking the guards with 
him. For a space there was silence as the aged 
Brahmin priest sat motionless, a strange, ex- 
halted expression in his face. 

"For what you have done there can be no true 
payment," he murmured presently. "Is there 
nothing you would ask ?" 

"Bhop Lai — our Sikh driver?" questioned 



The Eye of Vishnu 75 

Sherwood swiftly, voicing an anxiety they both 
shared keenly. "Is he — " 

"He is safe and here ; he will be freed at once. 
But that is a small thing. Is there no other 
way by which I may show our gratitude? 
Three hundred thousand rupees, of course, are 
yours. That is the reward we offered. 
But—" 

"You offered that reward?" interrupted 
Sherwood eagerly. "I wonder if that could 
have been what tempted Asher ?" 

"Ash-er?" repeated the Brahmin with a 
quaint accent. "Ah, yes ! My people were a 
trifte hasty there, I fear. But he was a wicked 
man who stole another's name and place the 
better to carry out his evil plans. To him the 
Eye was merely a means for gaining wealth to 
which he had no right, and Vishnu willed his 
fate." 

"But those others?" questioned Sherwood 
curiously. "The Hindus on the ship — the 
young Nizairi of Chotangpore? What was 
their part ?" 



76 The Emerald Buddha 

The Brahmin's eyes glowed. "That of true 
believers only," he returned. "They had 
pledged their lives to the recovery of Vishnu's 
Eye. Some of them have searched for it many 
years. The young Nizam suspected this false 
Ash-er, and at Hongkong made pretense of 
helping him in order that he might learn his 
plans. There was still another — ^Wes-son, who 
died in a far country — " He hesitated; then 
lifting the packet of papers from the stand be- 
side him, handed them to Sherwood. "You 
may read ; they are in English. They came to 
me with this precious bit of gold which will 
now be forever sacred." 

Sherwood unfolded them curiously and 
glanced through a page or two. Suddenly he 
gave an exclamation of surprise. 

"Weston!" he cried "George Weston! 
Why, we went through Yale together." He 
stared at Dick in a puzzled fashion. "But I 
never saw him in Vancouver." 

"There was an awful crowd," Warrender re- 
minded him, "and I suppose he was pretty care- 



The Eye of Vishnu yy 

ful that you shouldn't see him. How do you 
suppose he ever got mixed up in this business ?" 

"YouVe got me," shrugged Sherwood. "He 
always was a queer duck, but — " 

Thoughtfully he refolded the papers and 
handed them back to the old man. 

"I wish rd known — ^before," he said slowly. 
"I might have saved you a great deal of worry. 
Of course I can't take the reward. I haven't 
earned it; and besides, it has been enough to 
restore to its proper place this precious jewel 
which has been lost for ages." 

The very human eyes of the aged Brahmin 
regarded Sherwood thoughtfully. 

"And yet you are fond of jewels," he stated 
suddenly. 

Kent smiled. "I don't know how you 
guessed it, but it's true," he agreed. "And the 
Eye of Vishnu is the most gloriously fascinat- 
ing jewel I have ever seen. But it belongs 
here ; it is a part of your shrine and has been so 
for untold ages. I express myself poorly, I'm 
afraid, but perhaps you will understand me 



yS The Emerald Buddha 

when I say that this is not the sort of gem I 
covet." 

The Brahmin nodded. "I do understand," 
he answered readily. "You are one of the very 
few whose sense of right and justice cannot be 
blinded." 

He paused and for a space sat silent staring 
straight before him, an expression in his eyes 
which almost startled Sherwood. They were 
slightly narrowed, veiled, intent, with con- 
tracted pupils which gave Kent the feeling that 
he was looking back through ages, if not aeons, 
of time, searching for something half-forgot- 
ten. At length he spoke, slowly, absently as 
one scarcely conscious of voicing thoughts 
aloud. 

"There is another jewel even more wonder- 
ful than the Eye of Vishnu," he murmured. 
"For centuries it has — " 

His voice ceased abruptly and across his 
wrinkled face came a little ripple of returning 
animation. 

"We will speak of that again," he said 



The Eye of Vishnu 79 

briefly. "Meanwhile you are weary and in 
need of food." He touched a bronze bell be- 
side him and immediately the door opened and 
an attendant stood on the threshold. "Conduct 
the sahibs to a sleeping chamber," he ordered, 
"bring them food, and treat them as you would 
myself. Fear not to ask for anything you de- 
sire, my friends. You are our honored guests 
on whom Vishnu smiles."- 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE LEGEND OF THE EMERALD 

"What on earth do you suppose he meant by 
that ?" asked Dick Warrender, when Sherwood, 
over their meal, gave him an outline of all that 
had passed between the Brahmin and himself. 

"I can't make out," Kent answered. "A 
jewel more wonderful than that gorgeous blue 
diamond would be going some, all right. But 
then, almost anything is possible in the East. 
There's one thing certain: the old fellow will 
tell us in his own way and at his own time or not 
at all. He's an awfully decent old chap, but 
you can't hurry these people." He yawned 
cavernously. "Let's turn in. I'm dead to the 
world." 

During the three days that followed it be- 
came evident that Sherwood had sized up the 
situation with complete accuracy. He and 

Warrender spent an hour or two each day with 

80 



The Legend of the Emerald 8i 

the old Brahmin, but the subject of precious 
stones was not again touched on, and Kent was 
too wise to make any attempt to force matters. 

They had been urged to remain as guests of 
the monastery until after the solemn Feast of 
Restoration, toward which they had contributed 
so vitally, and Sherwood, believing that when 
this was over the high priest's tongue might 
perhaps be loosened, accepted willingly. Bhop 
Lai was despatched with several companions to 
secure the abandoned motor car and bring it to 
a little village at the foot of the mountains, and 
after that there was nothing to do but patiently 
await events. 

Starting at daybreak on the third day a con- 
tinuous stream of devotees poured into the 
great buildings. Rajahs in bright silks and 
glittering jewels, astride of thoroughbreds, of- 
ficials in gorgeous uniforms, white-robed 
priests, peasants, artisans and tillers of the soil 
came side by side until the halls and courtyards 
were filled to overflowing with a picturesque, 
motley assemblage. 



82 The Emerald Buddha 

The ceremonies which lasted from sunset un- 
til nearly midnight were of a most sacred sort 
on which no unbeliever's eye might rest. But 
when they were over Sherwood and Warren- 
der, who had kept close to their quarters, re- 
ceived an unexpected summons from the high 
priest. They found him in the low-ceiled, sim- 
ple room where he always received them. He 
looked tired and wilted, but when his attendants 
had departed and the door was closed, he rose 
briskly enough. 

"Come," he said "briefly. 

Closely followed by the other two, he crossed 
the room and lifting an embroidered hanging 
disclosed a cedar door having neither latch nor 
handle. Reaching out one wrinkled hand, he 
pressed the center of a lotus flower in the 
carved border and instantly the door swung 
smoothly and silently open, revealing a great, 
high, vaulted hall, gorgeous with gold and 
color. 

From the extraordinary richness of the place. 




The Legend of the Emerald 83 

Sherwood guessed almost at once that they 
stood in the inner sanctuary of the Temple of 
Vishnu. Great columns of stone overlaid with 
gold upheld a wonderful ceiling of carved cedar 
from which hung myriads of lamps. The walls 
were covered with silken hangings, while 
screens and lattices of sandalwood, gilded and 
colored, masked the fronts of countless little 
galleries which overlooked the hall. 

Slowly the high priest led them forward until 
at length he paused before an elevated shrine of 
such amazing gorgeousness that it seemed to 
focus all the light and color of this whole vast 
place. And well it might, for within it sat the 
presiding diety of the temple. 

This was a life-sized male figure riding a 
strange m3rthological creature with a human 
body and the head, wings and talons of an 
eagle. Covered with gold and jewels, with a 
high jewelled headdress, it held in its four ex- 
tended arms curious religious symbols. It 
made a gorgeous, dazzling object, bewildering 



84 The Emerald Buddha 

to the eye, but even that brilliance paled before 
the glowing marvel set in the center of the idol's 
forehead. 

Glowing, glittering, pulsing with that glor- 
ious blue eternal fire, the wonder of it fairly 
took Kent Sherwood's breath away. Indeed, 
to his wrought up senses, worked on doubtless, 
by the hour, the place, and a remembrance of 
the strange happenings of the past few days, 
the diamond seemed to gleam with an almost 
unearthly beauty. Utterly oblivious of his sur- 
roundings, Kent stood motionless for he knew 
not how long, drinking in its loveliness. He 
was roused at length by a touch upon his sleeve 
and obejang the Brahmin's gesture, he turned 
reluctantly and followed his guide back through 
the cedar door into the low-ceiled little room lit 
dimly by two flaring oil lamps. Here the 
priest seated himself in the ebony chair and mo- 
e two Americans to stools nearby, 
ading you into the sanctuary I have 
rilege, but I am not afraid," said the 
in a low, clear voice. "Only the most 



The Legend of the Emerald 85 

bigoted could deny you the privilege of behold- 
ing Vishnu perfected and transformed. It was 
your right, and to-morrow when you go forth 
into the world again you will carry with you a 
memory which can be matched by no other of 
your race, I would that you might take with 
you something, some token of our overflowing 
gratitude. Mere money is of no service to a 
man of wealth, and though I am the custodian 
of a priceless store of holy jewels, these belong 
to Vishnu; I have nothing to give save one 
slight thing." 

He paused, and Kent waited in silent, puzzled 
suspense. 

"It is nothing tangible," resumed the Brah- 
min presently. "One would call it merely a 
memory, or perhaps a legend. But to a man of 
cleverness and courage; to one loving jewels 
for their beauty alone, apart from the clogging 
dross of money value, it might well prove — re- 
warding. Know then, my friend, that deep in 
the trackless forests of Borneo lie the ruins of 
a civilization so old that even the memory of its 



86 The Emerald Buddha 

passing is no more. Set in the midst of what 
was once a populous city, but where for ages 
wild beasts- have prowled, are the scattered re- 
mains of a great temple — ^the Temple of the 
Emerald Buddha. Age-old trees sprout from 
its stone pavements. The winds and rains and 
earth-shocks of centuries have left his halls 
open to the skies. But amidst the ruins of its 
ancient shrine the Emerald Buddha still sits, 
holding in his outstretched hand a flawless 
jewel the size of — ^this !" 

With a curiously dramatic movement, the 
Brahmin's thin, veined hands came suddenly to- 
gether, the thumbs and forefingers outlining an 
oval fully a third again as large as the blue 
diamond. Sherwood gasped. 

"You can't mean an emerald as big as — 
that !" he cried. 

"An emerald," repeated the old man posi- 
tively, his hands dropping back to the arms of 
the ebony chair. "I will tell you how I know. 
Amongst the archives of our temple there were, 
until three months ago, two papers. One of 



The Legend of the Emerald 87 

them was written centuries ago in the reign of 
the great Akbar and told of a journey into 
Borneo by one of the brethern. He was al- 
lowed to inspect the jewel and pronounced it 
a true emerald, the largest ever known. This 
document was discovered about thirty years 
ago by one Kahmid, a resident of the monas- 
tery, who followed its directions and by great 
toil and peril penetrated again to the ancient 
city. He found it ruined and deserted, but the 
image of Buddha had suffered no harm and in 
its hand still glowed the emerald. The Dyaks 
and other savage tribes believe it cursed, refus- 
ing to venture within many leagues of the spot. 
And, indeed, there may be something of truth 
in their superstition, for Kahmid's own servant 
was strangely slain while striving to take the 
jewel, and he himself fled frightened from the 
place. He made his way thence with difficulty, 
and returning here wrote a full account of what 
had passed before he died.'* 

The Brahmin ceased speaking and for a mo- 
ment or two Sherwood sat motionless, his eyes, 



88 The Emerald Buddha 

full of an odd mingling of doubt, excitement 
and eager curiosity, fixed intently on the old 
man's face. 

"You said these papers were in your ar- 
chives?" he asked at length in a low tone. 

The Brahmin inclined his head. "Until 
three months ago when unhappily they were 
stolen. The thief was one of the library at- 
tendants, who had been with us a full year, 
and gained our confidence by his piety and dili- 
gence. We trusted him, and all the while have 
been working solely to this end." The old 
man's eyes flashed angrily. "I have learned 
since that he was in the pay of one of the great- 
est villians the earth has ever spawned. Have 
you ever heard by chance the name of — Fu- 
chong?" 

Sherwood stared at him blankly. "Fu- 
chong?" he repeated. "I don't think — " A 
sudden sparkle of returning memory glimmered 
in his eyes. "Wait! Why, isn't he — 
Hasn't he something to do with opium smug- 
gling?" 



The Legend of the Emerald 89 

"With that as well as many other evil 
things," returned the Brahmin sternly. "He 
is the curse of China, but so clever that for 
years he has pursued his wicked way unscathed. 
It is his brain which plans and carries out such 
wholesale smuggling into China of the forbid- 
den drug that the strictest laws against it are 
rendered worthless as waste paper." 

"But can't the government do anything?** 
asked Kent. 

"It has tried more than once without success. 
Rewards have been offered for his capture, and 
once an entire regiment was sent to search the 
province where he is supposed to lurk. The 
difficulty is that to all but a handful of trusted 

confederates, Fu-chong is nothing but a name. 

• 

Outside that little band no one has ever wit- 
tingly stt eyes upon his face. He carries out 
his plans through agents and they through les- 
ser ones. Even my informant, close as he is 
to that small central ring, has never seen the 
creature. But he has learned that Fu-chong 
has the papers and that he has not yet made an 



90 The Emerald Buddha 

effort to find the emerald. At my bidding he 
will tell you all he knows about the man and cer- 
tain special haunts where he is most likely to be 
found. The burden of the rest will lie upon 
your shoulders, for the people of Western 
China go too much in terror of Fu-chong to lift 
a hand against him." 

For a space Sherwood sat thoughtfully silent. 
"You believe in the truth of this story?" he 
asked at length. "You think it really is an em- 
erald, and that it is still there ?" 

I do — ^firmly," nodded the Brahmin. 

^And if we should succeed in finding it, you 
think it could be rightfully considered ours ?" 

"Why not ? To us Buddha is not a true god, 
and the gem therefore has no special sanctity. 
Nor has it ownership. The men who placed it 
there have long since passed into oblivion. 
Their very name is unknown to the present sav- 
age tribes with which they have no kin. Bet- 
ter that the emerald should be rescued by your 
hands than lie there unseen, unknown, until na- 
ture has destroyed it." 






The Legend of the Emerald 91 

Kent drew a long breath and rose suddenly. 
"What you have told me presents fascinating 
possibilities, but I must think it over carefully/' 
he said. "At least it will do no harm to see 
your friend and find out just how much he 
knows. We are travelling more or less for 
pleasure, and may as well have some definite ob- 
ject to guide our feet. If you will write a let- 
ter to your friend which will unseal his lips, I 
will deliver it. After that we shall be governed 
by circumstances." 

The Brahmin gravely inclined his head. "I 
understand," he said briefly. "The writing 
shall be in your hands at sunrise." 



CHAPTER IX 

THE QUEST BEGINS 

Over six weeks later Sherwood and Dick 
Warrender sat together on the cluttered deck 
of an antiquated Chinese steamer chugging 
fussily along the upper reaches of the Yang-tse- 
Kiang River. 

Both of them were deeply tanned and looked 
very fit, for ever since leaving Shanghai they 
had spent the better part of their time in just 
such crafts as this, which form practically the 
only means of travel in the interior. 

The method was pleasant and comfortable 
enough, if one did not mind rather primitive 
conditions, but very slow, for the Chinese are 
nothing if not leisurely. Indeed, Dick some- 
times had a curious feeling that he had spent 
months on end boarding boats, stowing away 
their belongings, lounging about on deck, or 

92 



The Quest Begins 93 

landing to inspect some sleepy little town where, 
for no apparent reason, their steamer tied up 
for days at a time. The high mud banks, the 
closely cultivated country, the whole populous, 
teeming panorama of Chinese life, had long ago 
become an intimate, familiar part of his daily 
existence, thrusting back into the recesses of 
his mind the memory of their strange Indian 
adventures. 

One thing, however, lingered vividly — ^the 
thought of Fu-chong and the Emerald Buddha. 
Even during the progress of Sherwood's busi- 
ness negotiations at Calcutta, it had formed the 
principle topic of conversation between the two, 
and they had continued to discuss it daily with 
an earnestness which increased as they neared 
their goal — ^the Chinese city of Ho-kansu. 

There were times, indeed, when Kent almost 
decided to abandon the quest as something too 
uncertain and dangerous for them to undertake. 
But Dick, on whom the tale had taken a strong 
hold, invariably stirred him to fresh enthusi- 
asm, reminding him at his most pessimistic mo- 



tinue the adventure further. 

Indeed, everything seemed to hinge on the 
unknown Sin-chow and what he had to tell 
them. The Brahmin had mentioned him as a 
dealer in old porcelains, jades and Chinese 
works of art, but how such a person had become 
the trusted agent of the aged priest of Vishnu, 
Kent had never asked. He gathered, however, 
that the man was a secret convert to the Brah- 
min religion who had retained his place 
amongst the opium smugglers that he might 
better serve the head of that ancient faith. 

In this wise the days and weeks passed and 
now, with the squat, flat-roofed buildings of 
Ho-Kansu appearing in the distance, both Sher- 
wood and Warrender were keyed up and ex- 
cited at the realization that in a few hours the 
suspense would be over and there would be 
something definite to guide their decision. 

Half an hour later they landed, selected port- 



The Quest Begins 95 

ers for their luggage from the horde of dam- 
orous coolies that besi^ed the quay, and made 
their way to an inn. 

Ordinary pleasure seekers are rare so far in- 
land and, with the object of diverting any pos- 
sible suspicion and making access to Sin-chow 
easy and natural, Sherwood had long ago as- 
sumed the role of buyer for a mythical New 
York importing house dealing in antiques and 
works of art. 

It was one he was well qualified to carry 
through* For years he had been a collector of 
just such things and his knowledge of jades, 
porcelains, rare ivories and the like was greater 
than many a prof essionaL Indeed, he had al- 
ready taken advantage of his opportunities to 
pick up a mmiber of valuable articles at bar- 
gain prices, and under his tuition Warrender 
was rapidly acquiring a very creditable idea of 
values. 

Having obtained quarters at the inn and set- 
tled down, it was perfectly natural that Sher- 
wood should inquire of the proprietor the names 



96 The Emerald Buddha 

of the best known dealers in the things they 
sought. It seemed more than likely that Sin- 
chow would be amongst them, and he preferred 
obtaining the location of his shop in this way 
rather than by direct inquiry. 

But the inn-keeper, having mentioned in his 
typically flowery verbiage, some six or seven 
names, paused with a shrug of his fat shoul- 
ders. 

"And that, honorable highborn," he said, "is 
all — ^save for a few low caste mongrels whose 
shops contain nothing fit for princely eyes to 
look upon." 

Sherwood hesitated. "Have I not heard 
somewhere spoken the name of one Sin-chow, 
dealer in rare porcelains?" he asked with af- 
fected carelessness. 

The Chinaman rolled up his eyes. "Alas, 
yes, honorable highness," he replied. "But 
Sin-chow, he no more. Twenty days ago he go 
to join his revered fathers." 

Sherwood bit his lips and swiftly turned 
away his head to hide the bitter disappointment 




The Quest Begins 97 

that flashed into his eyes. For a moment he ' 
felt stunned, helpless. He scarcely heard the 
inn-keeper telling him that one Fang-tsi now 
kept the dead man's shop. But presently, pull- 
ing himself together, he uttered a word or two 
of thanks and with Warrender beside him, 
walked slowly out into the street. 

"What on earth is the matter?" demanded 
the latter when they were out of hearing. 
"What's happened?" 

"Sin-chow is dead," Sherwood explained list- 
lessly. 

Dick stared at him blankly. "Dead?" he re- 
peated dazedly. "Dead!" 

Kent nodded. "About three weeks ago. 
Can you beat it?" He groaned. "To have 
travelled three or four thousand miles and then 
arrive a few miserable weeks too late !" 

Warrender's jaw sagged. "You don't mean 
we'll have to — ^give it all up ?" 

"What else is there to do ? We don't know 
within a thousand miles where this Fu-chong 
hangs out. You remember what that Shang- 



98 The Emerald Buddha 

hai official told us? They think he makes his 
headquarters somewhere near the Indian 
frontier, but that's all. YouVe been studying 
maps a lot lately, Dick, and youVe some idea 
how long that border line is. Without some- 
thing a lot more definite we might search for 
the rest of our lives and get no nearer finding 
him than we are this minute." 

Gloomy, disconsolate, the two walked on aim- 
lessly in silence. It was as if they had come 
suddenly upon an impassable stone wall. And 
with the falling of this stunning, unexpected 
blow, the lure of the Buddha's emerald had 
never been more powerful. At this moment 
they both felt more confident than they had ever 
felt before, not only of its existence, but of their 
ability to somehow wrest from Fu-chong the 
secret of its location and make the gem their 
own. If someone had whispered in their ears 
a hint of the present whereabouts of this mys- 
terious and sinister person, they would have 
flung themselves eagerly into the pursuit with- 
out an instant's hesitation. 




The Quest Begins 99 

"Where are we going?" asked Warrender at 
length. 

Sherwood shrugged his shoulders. 
"Hanged if I know ! I just started out at ran- 
dom because I had to do something.'' He 
paused a moment. "I suppose we may as well 
take a look at the shop. That fat geezer says 
it's run by a chap named Fang-tsi." 

There seemed little to be gained by the pro- 
ceeding, but as Kent said they had to do some- 
thing. Securing a guide, they followed him 
down into the more densely populated districts 
and after a number of twists and turns arrived 
at a small, inconspicuous shop standing amidst 
a perfect warren of low, straggling buildings. 

Inside, the reposeful quiet was a pleasant 
contrast to the chattering babel of the crowded 
street. The shop was long, narrow and rather 
dark, but there was light enough for Kent to 
realize almost instantly that they had stumbled 
on a mine of unusual richness. Gorgeous bro- 
cades, mandarin coats and wonderful old em- 
broideries draped the walls. The many shelves 



icx) The Emerald Buddha 

and tables were crowded with ivories, lacquer, 
old bronzes and a hundred other treasures of 
Chinese art. And such is the never-dying en- 
thusiasm of the true collector, that Sherwood 
instantly felt his spirits begin to rise and before 
five minutes had passed the discovery of an 
amazing piece of carved jade had momentarily 
driven from his mind every thought of the 
Buddha's emerald as if the gem had been a 
thing of air and fancy. 

There was good reason for his absorption, 
for the jade, which stood alone on a teakwood 
table, was an extraordinary piece of work. It 
represented a perfect sphere around which 
coiled a wierd, mythological creature, half ser- 
pent, half dragon. The carving was exquisite ; 
the color a deep sea green which seemed in cer- 
tain lights actually to glow with a strange inner 
fire. 

Yet Sherwood, having learned the price, 
thrust both hands into his pockets and turned 
away to examine an incense burner of old 
bronze. 




The Quest Begins loi 

"Too much," he remarked over one shoulder, 
in his fluent, slightly mongrel Chinese. 

It was difficult to summon a convincing note 
of indifference to his voice when ever fibre in 
him thrilled at the very thought of the treasure. 
But years in the Orient had taught Sherwood 
that nothing is ever secured without bargain- 
ing. 

Fang-tsi, the present proprietor of the little 
shop, impassive, expressionless, hands folded in 
the voluminous sleeves of his loose gown, 
raised his finely pencilled brows a fraction of 
an inch. 

"Him very fine," he stated smoothly. 

"Oh, so-so," shrugged Kent, running his 
fingers lightly over the surface of the bronze. 
Then he slowly turned around. "I tell you 
what," he went on carelessly. "FU give you 
thirty taels." 

There followed a clash of wits in which Sher- 
wood brought to bear all his native shrewdness 
coupled with an unusually thorough knowledge 

* 

of Oriental character. It lasted for some 



104 ^'^^ Emerald Buddha 

"What is it ?" he asked quickly. 

Fang-tsi glided from behind the table. "I 
go see," he murmured "Honorable highness 
wait here." 



CHAPTER X 

A WHISPER IN THE DARK 

In silence Kent watched the man disappear 
through the shop entrance. Then his gaze 
sought the jade and rested lovingly on its mar- 
vellous contours. 

"It's a wonder," he declared. "IVe never 
seen anything equal to it. Why, a thing like 
that if it ever got on sale in a New York shop 
would bring at least a thousand dollars." 

"It's a peach, all right," agreed Warrender. 

For a moment he was tempted to ask Sherwood 

whether the presence of the opium pipe had any 

significance, but a glance into the shadowy 

depths of the shop which might easily hide an 

eavesdropper amongst its crowded furnishings, 

decided him to wait until they were outside. 

"He's got a lot of other bully good stuff here 

too, don't you think?" 

los 



io6 The Emerald Buddha 

# 
''He certainly has. His bronzes are espe- 
cially fine and I want to look them over. IVe 
an idea this incense burner is pure Shang." 

He took up the article in question and turned 
it over searching for a signature amongst the 
intricate embellishment. Evidently the collect- 
or's fervor still absorbed him, so Warrender 
stepped ov6r to the other wall to examine a gor- 
geous hanging of salmon colored satin covered 
with a mass of fine embroidery which had 
caught his eye. 

For a space there was silence. Then Sher- 
wood heard a surprised exclamation from Dick 
and looking around saw that he had lifted one 
corner of the hanging and was peering behind 
it. 

"Funny place for a door," commented the 
boy. "I wonder if it's a closet or something 
where he keeps his choicest things." 

Sherwood laid aside the bronze and joined 
him quickly, and together they lifted the hang- 
ing a little higher. The wall was made of 
planks joined closely in a smooth, unbroken sur- 



A Whisper in the Dark 107 

face. Directly behind the length of embroid- 
ered satin, however, was a low, narrow door 
formed of these same planks and extending 
from the floor to the bottom of a shelf five feet 
above. It was barely ajar; just enough, in 
fact, to show the edge of an intricate brass 
catch on the other side of the planking. On the 
shop side there was no sign of knob or handle. 
Evidently when closed the fact that there was 
an opening of any sort would defy the keenest 
scrutiny. 

Instinctively Sherwood pushed the door a lit- 
tle further open. Behind was blackness unre- 
lieved by even a glimmer of light. The air 
which came through the narrow opening was 
close, foetid, and mingling with it — 

Sherwood caught his breath suddenly and 
straightened, his eyes, wide, startled. An odor 
had come to him, faint, barely perceptible yet 
pungently unmistakable, which swept instantly 
from his mind all thoughts of the Shang incense 
burner and even of the precious jade. Over 
one shoulder he darted a swift, searching glance 



io8 The Emerald Buddha 

down the length of the little shop. The crying 
of the child had ceased, but in the street a crowd 
seemed to have gathered. He could hear their 
shrill, excited chatter and in the doorway were 
outlined the backs of several native figures. 
His gaze swiftly sought Dick Warrender's, and 
in the other's face he read confirmation— cer- 
tainty. Something more he saw there — some- 
thing which, without the necessity of a single 
spoken word, caused him to thrust the door 
completely open and set his foot across the 
threshold. 

A passage lay before them, straight, dark 
and narrow. A faint glow shone at the fur- 
ther end, and toward it, noiselessly in their 
rubber-soled shoes, the friends moved swiftly. 
A dozen paces brought them to a doorway, 
where they paused, still in the shadow, to peer 
into the room beyond. 

This was small, rectangular and apparently 

—---'--'—, The atmosphere was close and 

leavily laden with that pungent, un- 

almost nauseating odor which had 



A Whisper in the Dark 109 

brought them here. What light there was 
came from a small hanging lantern — a curious 
greenish glow which touched vaguely on a few 
prominent objects but left most of the room in 
shadow. 

There was a faint sheen of silken hangings, 
a glint of something brass, like a brazier, on the 
floor, the dull glow of ebony or teak which con- 
stituted the framework of a bunk built against 
the further wall. But these things the two 
scarcely noticed. Directly under the lantern 
stood a low lacquer table at which, cross-legged 
on the floor, sat two Chinamen. Their backs 
were toward the door and they were talking to- 
gether in low tones, which had, however, a cer- 
tain sibilant quality that enabled Kent to catch 
the drift of what they were saying. 

His impulse had been to withdraw quickly. 
But the very first sentence he heard caught his 
attention and riveted him to the spot. 

"We shall have a fresh supply within ten 
days? Fu-chong has promised it.'* 

"Ah ! You have heard, then ?" 



no The Emerald Buddha 

"Last evening. He will be at the Mountain 
of Happy Rest in seven days. A caravan is 
expected from India and he is always there to 
meet it. So, even if our opium grows low, we 
know — " 

The speaker ended with a shrug of silk-clad 
shoulders and raised a tiny porcelain cup to his 
lips. Sherwood had heard enough. Turning 
swiftly, he grasped Dick's wrist and moved has- 
tily back along the passage. His heart was 
beating loudly and unevenly. Knowing China 
as he did, he fully realized what it would mean 
to be discovered in this sinister, hidden place. 
The passageway seemed endless, but at length 
they gained the door into the shop wall and 
stepped through it quickly. 

The panel clicked behind them ; the embroid- 
ered satin fell over it in smooth, unrumpled 
folds. Both of them were breathing hard, but 
at the sight of Fang-tsi, just gliding through the 
shop door, Sherwood caught up a graceful por- 
celain vase of a rich, ruby glaze. 

"... Yes, it's K'ang-hai period and very 



A Whisper in the Dark iii 

fine/' he said in a cool, casual voice. "Ah, 
there you are. We've been wondering what 
had happened to you." 

Imperturable and suave, the Chinaman 
paused before them. "Honorable highness 
pardon," he murmured. "Child break arm. 
Must carry to house and fix. He take long 
time." 

"Your child?" asked Kent. "That's a 
shame. I hope it wasn't a bad break. Well, 
we won't bother you any more just now. I'll 
just take the jade and be oflF. We'll come again 
some other day." 

With a bow, Fang-tsi took up the jade and 
began to encase it in soft wrappings. Though 
itching to be gone, the two friends chatted care- 
lessly about some exquisite old carved ivories 
as if they had not a thought or an interest in 
the world beyond such things. At last the 
money was paid over and they left the shop. 

Even then they did not broach what was up- 
permost in their minds. The way back to their 
inn led through a labyrinth of narrow, crooked. 



112 The Emerald Buddha 

ill-paved streets crowded with a chattering, 
jostling, heterogeneous throng of people. 
Squat, muscular, almost naked coolies rubbed 
elbows with dignified merchants in silk robes. 
Farmers, artisans, peasants clad in rough blue 
cotton padded along in their felt-soled shoes or 
paused at booths or shops to chat with loimging 
proprietors. Once a swaying palanquin with 
close-drawn curtains crowded Sherwood and 
Warrender to the wall. Again a herd of cattle 
driven by bare-legged boys, caused them to seek 
shelter in a doorway. 

But Kent had a good bump of locality and at 
last they emerged from the crooked tangle 
which made up so large a part of the populous 
city to one of the wider, less crowded thorough- 
fares. For the first time they felt compara- 
tively alone. 

"You — understood ? " asked Sherwood in a 
low tone. 

Warrender nodded. "An opium den, 
wasn't it? I recognized the smell. You re- 



A Whisper in the Dark 113 

member that Shanghai official burnt some to 
let me know what it was like." 

''Yes, with a secret entrance through the 
shop. Clever, isn't it ? Anyone can walk into 
a shop without arousing suspicion. That panel 
must work with a hidden spring. If the last 
fellow through hadn't been so careless, we'd 
never have found it in the world." He paused 
an instant, his eyes narrowing. "Of course 
you couldn't understand what they were say- 
ing," he almost whispered. 

Dick shook his head. His eyes were eager, 
questioning. 

"They were talking of Fu-chong ! Think of 
it, old man! Fu-chong! A caravan of opium 
is coming in from India and he's to be at the 
Mountain of Happy Rest in seven days to meet 
it." 

Warrender's face flushed crimson; his eyes 
sparkled. "Oh, boy!" he gasped. "What 
luck — what simply corking luck ! By George ! 
I never thought — But, say! Where the 



114 2"A^ Emerald Buddha 

dickens is this — Mountain of Happy Rest?" 
"YouVe got me," smiled Sherwood. "But 
we ought to be able to find out by asking. It's 
a suggestive name, isn't it ? " He gave a sud- 
den, excited laugh. "It doesn't seem as if we 
could have been so horribly down in the dumps 
less than an hour ago, does it ? " 

Warrender grinned. "I'll say it doesn't. 
I'd just about given up all hope, and it seems 
almost too good to be true, even now. Are you 
still planning to work along the lines we laid 
out aboard ship ? " 

Sherwood nodded. "That was as good a 
plan as any. Naturally we can't expect to get 
hold of the fellow by ourselves. He must be 
a clever old fox who has taken all sorts of pre- 
cautions. But if we can locate this headquar- 
ters of his and give information of it to the 
Qiinese government that results in his capture, 
we'll be in a position to claim the reward they 
offer. And if I know anything about the Chi- 
nese, they'll be only too glad to give me those 



_ _ Fan 117 

He rep- 
two japes tyxz ±e z:=sr-^ -z.-:, rr:^ ^^it moun- 
of n2l Eoaev, r , ' -^ iizr ^-y^' r ■» - 



_ o the trav- 

where fe VocEzit ~ Ejrr Is -. ~ ly do to be 

whether 'X m Tt lEi ii. :.* 

little light, 
was an old 
occasional 
id already 
1 no effect, 
the old f el- 
:ather fur- 

lal flowery 
about the 
le success, 
a hundred 
)ffl the city 
he knew 
a revered 
dent Bud- 
ruin. He 
ertake the 



CHAPTER XI 

THE MANDARIN OF THE PURPLE FAN 

Sherwood's first efforts to obtain infor- 
mation failed completely. The proprietor of 
the inn assured him that he had never heard of 
such a place. Blandly smiling, he declared that 
never in his life had he so regretted the miser- 
able ignorance of his poor and wretched self. 
If wallowing in the mud of the unpaved court- 
yard, or covering his useless head with dust and 
ashes would gratify for an instant his glorious 
and highborn guests, it would give him supreme 
pleasure. But, alas — 

Thus, also, several others about the place of 
whom the two made guarded inquiries. Either 
these people were really ignorant, or else they 
had some reason for suppressing anjrthing they 
knew about the Mountain of Happy Rest. 
Sherwood dared not press his questions too 

ii6 



The Mandarin of the Purple Fan 117 

closely for fear of exciting suspicion. He rep- 
resented himself as having heard of the moiin- 
tain mentioned as a spot of interest to the trav- 
elling foreigner, and it would scarcely do to be 
too persistent in the matter. 

At length, however, they got a little light. 
Amongst the attendants of the inn was an old 
porter whom they had won over by occasional 
presents of small coin. Kent had already 
asked him about the mountain with no effect, 
and he was rather surprised to have the old fel- 
low draw him aside next day in a rather fur- 
tive manner. 

He had, he explained with the usual flowery 
interlarding, been making inquiries about the 
Mountain of Happy Rest with some success. 
It was located, he had learned, nearly a hundred 
miles west of Ho-Kansu, not far from the city 
of Tsin-Tang. Further than that he knew 
nothing, save that it was said to be a revered 
and holy spot, once the site of an ancient Bud- 
dist monastery, long since fallen into ruin. He 
suggested that if they cared to undertake the 



ii8 The Emerald Buddha 

journey to Tsin-Tang, the governor of that city, 
one Li-kiang-chow, was reputed to be an agree- 
able and highborn nobleman, and would doubt- 
less help them further in their search. 

By this time the affair had become so great 
an obsession that the two lost no time in mak- 
ing arrangements for their departure. The 
jade and certain other purchases were packed 
up and left in care of the inn-keeper, and 
though Kent rather hated losing sight of the 
former, he had enough confidence in Chinese 
honesty to be tolerably certain of finding every- 
thing safe on their return. 

Fortunately the trip could be made entirely 
by water, and early next morning they em- 
barked on one of the many light-draught boats 
that ply the upper reaches of the river. 

Four days later they disembarked on a mas- 
sive, ancient looking stone quay, hired a porter 
for their luggage and started for the inn, star- 
ing about with lively interest and curiosity. 
It was evident at once that Tsin-Tang, though 
much smaller than Ho-ICansu, was a town of 



The Mandarin of the Purple Fan 119 

infinitely greater antiquity. Chinese civiliza- 
tion is the oldest in the world, but their archi- 
tecture IS of such a type that very little of it 
usually survives. 

Tsin-Tang was different. Here most of the 
buildings were of stone — ^heavy, squared blocks 
so worn and pitted that they seemed almost to 
rival the pyramids in age. Unusual, too, was 
the noticeable absence of ornamentation. The 
louses were low, massive, simple in design, with 
now and then curious, archaic carvings and in- 
scriptions that had been almost obliterated by 
time. Even the votive arches, though slightly 
more ornate, had that same massive, solid, sim- 
ple look as if they had survived from another 
age, almost from another civilization. 

"They look as if they'd been here since the 
flood," commented Warrender. 

"Don't they,'' agreed Kent. "And that tem- 
ple there reminds me of some of the ruins we 
saw on our way down to Calcutta." 

"Maybe they got their ideas from across the 
border," suggested Dick. "The frontier can't 



120 The Emerald Buddha 

be far. FU bet you could fish up some mighty 
nice antiques here, Kent/' 

"That's what weVe come for," said Sher- 
wood, lowering one eyelid significantly. 
"WeVe heard about the possibilities of Tsin- 
Tang and want permission from his nibs, the 
Governor, to hunt up some antiques. But first 
we're planning to take a few days oflF from our 
strenuous labors and see the neighborhood 
sights. You're feeling a bit seedy, aren't you, 
old man ? I thought so ; you look pulled down. 
Nothing so trying to the nerves as our profes- 
sion. A change is what we need — ^just a few 
days of loafing, and looking at ruins and such 
like. I wonder if it's going to be hard to get 
an audience with the old top ? " 

It proved remarkably easy. They had ar- 
rived in the morning and as soon as they had 
settled down, Kent despatched a polite and flow- 
ery message to the Governor asking for an au- 
dience. To his surprise — for such things 
usually take time in China — it was granted for 
that afternoon at four. 



The Mandarin of the Purple Fan 121 

"I guess the old duck's a bit curious," com- 
mented Dick as they followed their guide to- 
ward the palace. "I don't suppose a white man 
shows up here once in a blue moon. Have you 
noticed the way they stare at us ? " 

"As if we were animals in the zoo," grinned 
Sherwood. "Lucky we're not shy. This must 
be the place. I hope the old gentleman knows 
something besides the dialect they speak here. 
So far we've got ahead mostly by sign lan- 
guage." 

A short flight of broad, shallow steps, much 
worn and hollowed, led into an immense, stone- 
paved hall where a dozen native guard3 were 
lounging. An aged, weazoned Chinaman with 
huge, tortoise-rimmed spectacles, came forward 
and with many bows led them to a wooden 
bench against the wall. He then disappeared 
through an adjoining doorway to return a few 
minutes later bowing profoundly. With many 
gestures and a flow of words of which Kent un- 
derstood about one in five, he invited them to 
follow him. 



122 The Emerald Buddha 

At the doorway he drew aside some heavy 
curtains and motioned them to enter. When 
they had done so, he let the draperies fall again 
and the two found themselves on the thresh- 
old of a long, rather narrow room panelled 
entirely in teak. On the floor were spread 
some almost priceless Qiinese rugs of a golden 
yellow tone with designs in black. Here and 
there were low stands and carved shelves hold- 
ing a number of rare Ming figures, old bronzes 
and some exquisite carved ivories. But the 
strangest feature about this unusual apartment 
was that it held only a single occupant. 

Sherwood, at least, had expected that the 
Governor of Tsin-Tang would be surrounded 
by the usual throng of secretaries, guards and 
attendants. But there he sat alone in a heavy, 
carved teak chair, a gorgeous figure in his em- 
broidered yellow satin jacket — ^plump, placid, 
smiling, a fan of painted purple silk held lightly 
in one hand. 

The two visitors came forward bowing 
deeply, and Kent, in somewhat halting phrases. 



The Mandarin of the Purple Fan 123 

began the usual ceremonious, exaggerated style 
of greeting. For a moment or two he pro- 
ceeded without interruption. Then he noticed 
a sudden twinkle in the mandarin's narrow 
black eyes. An instant later the plump face 
wrinkled mirthfully and Li-kiang-chow chuck- 
led. 

"Perhaps you would prefer to speak in your 
own tongue," he remarked in almost perfect 
English. 

Sherwood gasped, and then he laughed. "I 
certainly should," he agreed. "My Chinese is 
pretty much of a joke." 

"You speak it well — for a foreigner," re- 
turned Li-kiang politely. "Will you take 
seats. I am glad to welcome you to Tsin- 
Tang, where we see but few of other nations. 
You come perhaps — on business ?" 

Kent nodded and briefly explained that they 
were in search of Chinese antiquities and hoped 
to find some unusual ones in Tsin-Tang. Li- 
kiang agreed with him. There were many 
such, he said, as few came so far inland in 



124 The Emerald Buddha 

search of them. Doubtless they could be 
bought cheaply enough. He would command 
his chamberlain to draw up a list of various 
dealers in works of art and have it sent to them 
by messenger. 

He went on to ask many questions about 
themselves and their travels, and finally, after 
half an hour of friendly conversation, Sher- 
wood and Warrender arose to go. 

"We're planning to take a little vacation be- 
fore we do anything else," the former said cas- 
ually. My friend here is not long over a bad 
attack of typhoid, and I though we'd just lay 
off for a few days and look up some of the in- 
teresting features of the neighborhood. 
What was the name of that old ruin we heard 
of in Ho-kansu, Dick? Mountain of — er — 
Happy Sleep, wasn't it?" 

Li-kiang unfurled the painted fan, making a 
sudden glow of gorgeous purple color against 
his yellow robe. 

"The Mountain of Happy Rest," he cor- 
rected, smiling. "There is a ruin of a very 



The Mandarin of the Purple Fan 125 

ancient monastery on its summit, but it is 
scarcely in the neighborhood. To reach it one 
must travel over thirty miles through a rough 
and wild country." 

"Ought to make a fine little camping trip in 
this weather," declared Kent enthusiastically. 
"I suppose there's no reason why we shouldn't 
go ? I mean it isn't holy, or taboo, or anything 
like that?" 

"Not at all," returned Li-kiang, fanning him- 
self gently. "Only the people say it is haunted 
by ghosts of the dead monks, and few will go 
near it." 

Sherwood laughted. "I guess they won't 
bother us any ; we're pretty tough. Could ydu 
tell us how to get there ? " 

The Qiinaman smiled. "I will do even bet- 
ter," he assured them. "I will furnish you 
with two guides who know the way and who 
are not afraid of spirits — at least, not very 
much. When do you wish to start?" 

"Why not to-morrow morning?" 

"Very well. The men will be at your inn at 



126 The Emerald Buddha 

eight o'clock. You will have to pay them, of 
course." He chuckled "They will be willing 
to go almost anywhere for real money. Here 
the pay is small and frequently — delayed." 

He chuckled again and rising ponderously, 
offered them his hand in turn. It was a soft, 
pudgy hand with the nail of the first finger 
grown very long and protected by a thin, golden 
sheath. On another finger he wore a magnifi- 
cent ruby set in heavy gold carved in the like- 
ness of a sinuous dragon. 

"He's a pippin, all right," remarked Sher- 
wood, when they had reached the street. 
"Whoever'd thought of running up against an 
English-speaking mandarin in this out of the 
way place. I wonder he's contented so far 
from Pekin." 

'Terhaps he finds it worth his while," smiled 
Warrender. "Did you notice that ring?" 

"Yes, and those Ming figures and pippy rugs 
and things. The old boys must have it pretty 
soft. I'll bet he doesn't miss any of his pay, 
even if the men do. Well, he certainly treated 



The Mandarin of the Purple Fan 127 

us all right. Things seem to be working out 
very nicely don't they? " 

"I'll say so," agreed the boy. He lowered 
his voice. "All that's worrying me is where 
this Fu-chong person hangs out, if the moun- 
tain and all the neighborhood is wilderness and 



ruins." 



to 



^That's what we've got to discover," replied 
Sherwood. "It may be only a place of meeting 
and not his headquarters. We can't tell any- 
thing until we're on the ground. All we know 
now is that he'll be there day after to-morrow, 
and it's up to us to hump ourselves and not be 
late for the appointment. If these guides 
amount to anything and the country isn't too 
rough, we might even reach there some time to- 
morrow night." 



CHAPTER XII 



TREACHERY 



Sherwood's hope of reaching the Mountain 
of Happy Rest before sunset next day was 
speedily doomed to disappointment. To begin 
with it proved quite impossible to secure horses 
and any sort of camping equipment at short no- 
tice. Indeed, scarcely any progress in that di- 
rection could be made until the appearance of 
the two guides next morning, and even with 
their services enlisted it was nearly noon before 
the little party were able to mount and leave the 
inn. 

"Thank goodness we're off at last," said 

Sherwood in tones of heartfelt relief, as they 

passed through the western gate of the city 

and set out along a wide road whose ragged 

remnants of paving made it worse, almost than 

the open country. "I don't know when I've 

128 



Treachery 129 

found Chinese methods quite so aggravating." 
'They certainly are dead ones," agreed War- 
render. ''At one time I began to think we were 
going to take root in that inn courtyard." He 
hesitated an instant. "I can't say I'm very 
keen about that tall gink, are you ? " 

Kent glanced ahead to where the two China- 
men plodded along on spavined nags, leading 
a ladened packhorse. One of them was slight 
and bland and inoffensive enough except for a 
rather sly expression in his slanting eyes. The 
other, very tall and gaunt, had a saturnine caste 
of countenance which was rendered almost sin- 
ister by the fact that the tops of both ears had 
been cut square off. 

"He's no beauty, and that's a fact," com- 
mented Sherwood, lowering his voice a trifle, 
though there was little chance of either of the 
men understanding English. "I may be mis- 
judging the fellow, but he certainly looks like 
a hard character." 

"He's been a criminal, hasn't he?" asked 
Dick. "Those cropped ears, I mean — " 



130 The Emerald Buddha 

"Sure; but I wouldn't hold that against him. 
It doesn't take much to convict a man of crime 
in this country. I've seen the most harmless 
creatures lacking an ear or two. Well, I sup- 
pose we shouldn't kick. Guides of any sort 
are better than none, and I don't believe Li- 
kiang is the sort to deliberately send us off with 
a pair of utter ruffians. Besides, at the worst, 
we've got our revolvers and ought to be able to 
take care of ourselves." 

Before many hours had passed, however, 
Sherwood began to wonder whether his con- 
gratulations on their good fortune had not been 
a trifle premature. About five or six miles 
from Tsin-Tang they left the main road and 
turned southward along a narrow side track 
which led through a rough, hilly country almost 
deserted by human occupants. 

The progress was extremely slow, and after 
a few miles of it Sherwood rode forward to 
ask the men if they were certain of their way. 
They seemed so entirely sure of themselves that 
his misgivings were temporarily lulled. But 



Treachery 131 

when nightfall forced them to alight and make 
camp in a rocky, wooded gorge which might 
have been the center of a trackless wilderness, 
those misgivings returned and with them a 
growing suspicion of the guides. 

He had nothing really definite against them. 
The crop-eared fellow, who always seemed to 
act as spokesman, assured him that this was 
the only way he knew of reaching the Moun- 
tain of Happy Rest. Ruined and deserted for 
many generations and bearing a sinister repu- 
tation which made it generally shunned and 
avoided, the road one had to travel had long 
since become rough and overgrown. 

This sounded reasonable enough, but never- 
theless Kent was not altogether comfortable in 
his mind. And when they had finished supper 
and lay down in their blankets beside the small 
fire, he determined to be on the lookout for 
treachery. 

For a few hours it was easy enough to keep 
watch. Dick, lying beside him, was soon asleep 
and the Chinamen, huddled on the other side of 



133 i 

the blaze, snmed also to have 

slumber. But as the fire died 

their muffled ^[ures faded gradually mto Diacic- 

ness until at length Kent had only his ears to 

depend on in case they stirred. 

After a time he, too, began to grow sleepy. 
He was lying on his side, head only protruding 
from the blanket folds, with his revolver 
gripped firmly in one hand. The fire had be- 
come a mere bed of coals, dulled by the gather- 
ing ashes, and at length his drowsiness became 
so overpowering that Kent had to fight against 
it by every means in his power save that of ac- 
tual movement. He had heard no suspicious 
sounds and had just about decided to get up 
and pile some more wood on the fire, when all 
at once that subtle sixth sense which works so 
inexplicably, sent a sudden warning tingling 
through his brain. 

Like a cat he rolled over on his back, jerked 
his hand from beneath the blanket and fired 
point-blank at a shadow, darker than the over- 
hanging trees, which loomed above him. 



Treachery 133 

It was all the work of an instant. At one 
and the same moment his brain perceived the 
danger and his finger pressed the trigger auto- 
matically, without him consciously taking aim. 
A second later he fired again, this time at an 
unmistakable human figure the revolver flash 
had revealed crouching over Warrender. And 
the shriek which followed, echoed by a muffled 
cry, the falling of a body across his legs, and 
Dick's startled waking shout, all seemed to 
come simultaneously. 

A moment later Sherwood had flung aside 
the body that pressed against him and leaped 
to his feet. At the sound of feet padding 
down the slope, he sent a couple of shots in that 
direction, but with apparently no result. 
Then, without replying to Warrender's bewil- 
dered questions, he fumbled for the pile of 
wood and flung several branches on the glow- 
ing embers. 

As these blazed up he bent over the silent 
figure lying across his blankets to straighten 
with a grunt. It was the smaller of the two 



134 '^f^ Emerald Buddha 

Chinamen, and the glint of a wicked looking 
knife he had dropped in falling, effectually 
killed any regrets his impulsive action might 
have brought him. 

"The beasts ! '' he muttered. "I only wish 
I'd got the other, too." 

But apparently the crop-eared fellow had es- 
caped unscathed. At least the sounds of his 
hurried flight had died away in the distance, 
and Sherwood knew how useless it would be to 
attempt to find him in the darkness. 

Naturally there was no more sleep that night. 
Having built up the fire, the two wrapped them- 
selves in their blankets and sat down before it to 
discuss the situation seriously. 

It was quite impossible to tell whether the at- 
tempted assassination was the result of a delib- 
erate plot to keep them from the mountain, or 
merely an effort on the part of the two Qiina- 
men to secure their valuables and belongings. 
Of one thing, however, Kent felt certain. 
They had been purposely led astray and at this 
moment were quite likely even further from 



Treachery 135 

their destination than when they left Tsin-tang. 
Moreover, he had no real idea which direction 
they ought to take ; but when dawn broke they 
packed up and set forth without delay, travel- 
ling more or less to the westward. 

Fortunately the horses had not been dis- 
turbed. Evidently in his hasty flight the crop- 
eared Chinaman had been unable even to secure 
his own nag. Having no desire to be further 
burdened, Sherwood cut them both loose and 
with a sharp whack of his riding whip sent 
them galloping back along the trail. 

"He'll have a long walk ahead of him wher- 
ever he goes," he said grimly. "Now let's be 
going." 

For hours they wandered through a rough, 
wooded country which seemed to grow wilder 
with every passing mile. Apparently it was 
quite uninhabited, and the two friends were be- 
ginning to despair when early in the afternoon 
they came suddenly upon a native hunter, sav- 
age looking and unkempt. At first he was in- 
clined to be stubbornly, or stupidly, silent, but 



136 The Emerald Buddha 

the present of a handful of coin loosened his lips 
and stimulated his intelligence. He told them 
that the Mountain of Happy Rest lay some fif- 
teen or eighteen miles due north, showed them 
an overgrown mountain trail which led to it, 
and then scuttled off, as if fearing they might 
rob him of his coppers. 

It was sunset when they rode wearily into a 
narrow, shut-in valley, crossed a tottering stone 
bridge over a swift stream, and saw far above 
them the outlines of two square-topped towers, 
standing out distinctly against the crimson 
western sky. Out of the valley there woimd 
an ancient relic of a road. Here and there it 
was overgrown with bushes or clumps of wiry 
grass. In places fallen rocks cluttered it, or 
mounds of earth washed down by mountain tor- 
rents. But in the main it was surprisingly 
clear and open, and without delay the tired 
horses were headed up the slope. 

About two-thirds of the way darkness fell, 
preventing further progress. Sherwood and 
Warrender dismounted and leading their nags 



Treachery 137 

into a grove of pines to one side of the road, 
prepared a simple supper and immediately af- 
terward spread their blankets on the ground 
and fell into a prof ound, exhausted sleep. 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE CAVE OF THE GOLDEN DRAGONS 

Dawn. . . • Eastward a faint touch of rose 
crept up, wanning the cold, drab sky. The 
shadows hugging the mountainside faded 
slowly. A group of silver fir stood forth ; the 
heavy flower clumps of a grove of enormous 
rhododendrons lightened from black to a deep 
blood-red. 

Brighter grew the heavens ; the rose turned 
to crimson shot with gold. Like molten metal 
it spread on the surface of the river below — 
that uncanny stream, so full of life and pulsing 
movement, which, abruptly, incredibly, plunged 
beneath the whole great mass of rock and earth 
and vegetation and vanished out of sight. 

Then swiftly came the sun — radiant, gleam- 
ing, dispersing the last faint shadows with its 

brilliance. The golden rays shot between two 

138 



— I 



The Cave of the Golden Dragons 139 

massive ruined towers a little further up the 
mountain, and bathed the rhododendrons in a 
glow of light which brought out to perfection 
their amazing crimson beauty. An instant 
later the branches of the shrubbery parted and 
Kent Sherwood stepped forth. 

For a space he stood motionless, one hand 
thrust deep into his jacket pocket, which bulged 
significantly, while he searched the mountain- 
side with swift, keen glances. Presently he 
relaxed a little and glanced back over one shoul- 
der. 

"All right, Dick," he said in a low tone. 
"Nothing in sight." 

There was a rustle and Warrender's face ap- 
peared, framed in the green about him. His 
face was streaked and travel stained, but his 
eyes were bright and eager. 

"I'm not at all easy about that crop-eared f el- 
ow," observed Kent, in that same guarded tone. 
"There wasn't much risk of his catching up 
with us yesterday, but this morning — " 

"You think he's likely to follow us? " 



I40 The Emerald Buddha 

"I should say it depended entirely on what 
their object was in trying to knife us. If rob- 
bery was the only motive, we'll probably not 
see him again, but if — " 

He broke off abruptly and gripped Warren- 
der by one arm. "Duck ! " he whispered, drag- 
ging him down into the bushes. 

Along the curving road from the valley a soli- 
tary figure had just comt into sight — ^a tall, 
gaunt Chinaman who moved swiftly and stead- 
ily up the grade. Watching closely through 
the screen of leaves, Kent presently had his 
suspicions confirmed. It was the crop-eared 
fellow they had just been discussing. He 
looked neither to the right nor left, and passing 
their hiding place, he mounted the final ascent 
to disappear through a ruined gateway set in 
a wall between the two square towers. 

For fifteen or twenty minutes the two Amer- 
icans remained in hiding, discussing the situa- 
tion in whispers. The Chinaman did not seem 
to be searching for them after all. His man- 



The Cave of the Golden Dragons 141 

ner, on the contrary, was that of one making 
straight for a certain goal. And since they 
knew that his only weapon was a long, slim 
Idiif e, they presently decided to venture forth 
and follow. 

Keeping cautiously to the edge of the road, 
they reached a square, level plaza back of which 
lay the entrance to what must have been the 
front of the monastery. This was thickly cov- 
ered with grass and low bushes save where, 
straight down the middle toward the gate, there 
lay a wide, trodden path. The two friends ex- 
changed glances. Though the building was in 
ruins, it looked as if someone was in the habit 
of visiting it pretty constantly. 

Reconnoitering at the gateway, they saw 
that it led into a wide, square courtyard. 
There was grass here, too, growing in patches 
of soil which had been washed over the great 
stone slabs, and the path ran straight through it 
to a wide doorway on the further side. The 
Chinaman was not in sight, nor was there any 



142 The Emerald Buddha 

other sign of life; and at length, revolvers in 
hand, the two crept noislessly across the silent, 
empty space and safely gained the door. 

The hall within was lighted brilliantly by the 
sun, which poured through a series of tall, nar- 
row window-holes, revealing mercilessly every 
detail of gaunt, bare ruin. Here and there 
were gaps in the ceiling where portions of the 
upper floor had fallen through, and beneath 
them lay piles of rubbish, small stones and 
fragments of wooden beams, moss covered 
and rotting. Several doors opened from the 
apartment, and after a careful survey the two 
friends chose one on the right for their further 
explorations. The Chinaman seemed to have 
vanished into thin air, but they realized that 
he might be hiding in any corner, and advanced 
with the utmost caution. 

The room in which they found themselves 
was even larger than the first one. So great, 
indeed, was its width that the ceiling was sup- 
ported down the middle by a row of massive 
stone columns, each .one fully eight feet in di- 



The Cave of the Golden Dragons 143 

ameter. These were hexagonal in shape, and 
as Sherwood, who led the way, reached the 
nearest he made a startling discovery. 

Instead of being solid, one of the six smooth 
sides was a door cleverly constructed of a 
wooden framework covered by a thin veneer of 
stone. It stood slightly open, and with swiftly 
beating pulse, Kent made haste to draw it wide. 
Instead of being solid, the whole great column 
was hollow, concealing a circular flight of nar- 
row stone steps leading downward into dark- 
ness. 

In that moment there flashed upon the man 
that here was the key to the riddle they had been 
seeking. Somewhere in the depths below — in 
caves or chambers hollowed in the moimtain 
— was the lair of the mysterious Fu-chong. 
There was an ease and well-oiled smoothness in 
the mechanism of the door that hinted at con- 
stant use. The crop-eared Chinaman had been 
doubtless hastening to the rendezvous, and the 
fact that he had neglected properly to close the 
entrance looked as if he had no idea of their 



144 The Emerald Buddha 

presence in the neighborhood. And after all, 
why should he? Save for that lucky encoun- 
ter with the Hunter, the two would almost cer- 
tainly have been wandering through the desert 
wilderness miles away from here. 

To descend might be risky, but both were 
well armed and prepared for attack. More- 
over, they would never have undertaken the 
quest if they had been afraid of taking chances. 
Kent did try to persuade Dick to let him go 
down alone, but the boy wouldn't hear of it. 

"Nothing doing," he declared in an emphatic 
whisper. "You can't shake me just when 
things are getting interesting. Besides, it 
seems to me we'll be much better off together, 
no matter what happens." 

Sherwood gave a resigned shrug, and, slip- 
ping through the doorway, started down, count- 
ing as he went. The steps, steep and narrow, 
curved around a slender central stone column. 
At the end of the thirty-seventh Kent's explor- 
ing foot encotmtered a flat stone pavement. A 
moment later he was peering out on a straight. 




The Cave of the Golden Dragons 145 

flagged passage which ran past the foot of the 
stairs. Instead of being in darkness as might 
have been expected, this passage was faintly 
illumined by a pale, curiously golden glow 
which came through a squared doorway at the 
further end. 

The presence of that light, though it revealed 
the entire passage bare and empty, sent an un- 
comfortable nervous thrill through Sherwood, 
and tightened his grip on the revolver. For a 
long moment he paused irresolute, listening in- 
tently. But not a sound broke the utter still- 
ness of the underground place — ^not even a 
whisper or the rustle of a garment. 

He drew back to Warrender's side. "I don't 
believe we ought to go on, Dick," he breathed. 
"It looks queer." 

The boy's lips almost touched his ear. "Just 
to the door," he urged softly. "There's no- 
body back of us and we've got our guns handy, 
you know." 

Stiealthily, noislessly, they crept over the 
stone floor and gained at length the open door- 



146 The Emerald Buddha 

way. And there they paused amazed, wonder- 
ing whether what lay beyond could possibly be 
real, for it was like nothing either of them had 
ever seen or dreamed of. 

They were looking into a cave — ^vast, lofty 
as a cathedral, its f artherest reaches fading im- 
perceptibly into shadows so that at no time 
could they take in its entire extent. Wh^t had 
been so puzzling — ^the presence of light where 
darkness ought to be — ^was now explained. Or 
rather, it was not explained, but at least they 
looked upon its source. 

Straight down the middle of this strange 
place were two rows of great golden dragons, 
each one supporting a crystal globe which 
glowed faintly with a curiously pulsating, 
opalescent fire. The light from these globes 
illumined certain near-by features clearly but 
kept the greater portion of the vast cave in tan- 
talizing shadows. The dragons, for instance, 
"^ stood out distinctly — ^twisting, sinuous, repul- 
sive looking creatures of dull, shimmering gold 
which, in that wovering light, seemed to stir 



The^ Cave of the Golden Dragons 147 

and writhe as though they were actually alive. 

There were hints and glimpses of other 
things — gorgeous hangings of embroidered silk 
and satin, splendid rugs scattered over the stone 
floor, outlines of carved furniture, bronzes, 
porcelains and the like. Directly opposite the 
doorway was a low platform, behind which an 
immense Buddha of golden bronze loomed 
through the obscurity and seemed to dominate 
the place. In front of it, on a sort of throne, 
was another figure, much smaller, and — ^be- 
cause of the placing of the lights — ^almost en- 
tirely in shadow. Only the outlines could be 
seen — outlines of head and shoulders, a fold of 
flowing drapery, the gleam of two hands rest- 
ing motionless on the arm of the thronelike 
chair. 

Kent stared at it curiously, striving to pierce 
the shadows with straining eyes. What was 
it made of ? he wondered. Ivory ? Lacquer ? 
Carved and painted wood? There was a 
strange sort of fascination in the thing which 
seemed so lifelike, yet sat there as inert and 



148 The Emerald Buddha 

motionless as the great Buddha against the wall 
behind. And then slowly, gradually, though 
not a sound had broken the deep stillness of the 
cave, he seemed to sense a human presence. 

The feeling turned him cold. He was filled 
with a sudden, overwhelming desire to escape 
from this strange, shadowy, underground place. 
With eyes still riveted on the platform, he 
reached out and touched the boy beside him. 
He had even taken a single backward step, 
when, from somewhere close at hand, there 
came a sudden click, followed by an ominous, 
metallic scraping. 



CHAPTER XIV 

TRAPPED 

With a gasp, Sherwood whirled around. A 
grating of heavy, riven steel was sliding 
smoothly out of the passage wall directly at his 
back. He gave a cry and caught at the moving 
edge instinctively. But the pressure on his 
fingers was irresistible. In another moment 
the grating had touched the further side, cut- 
ting oflf retreat completely. 

At the same instant, back in the cave, the 
double row of crystal globes flared up with a 
sudden, blinding glare of light exactly as if an 
electric switch had been turned, illuminating the 
whole place brilliantly. The golden dragons 
took on an added splendor; the priceless rugs 
and hangings glowed gorgeously; fresh won- 
ders were revealed. But Sherwood was un- 
conscious of them all. His shifting, hunted 

149 



ISO The Emerald Buddha 

gaze flashed despairingly from one side of the 
blocked door to the other, where at least a score 
of armed Chinamen stood close against the 
hangings as if they had just emerged from hid- 
ing places behind, and covered the Americans 
with rifles or revolvers. 

A sickening wave of self-reproach swept over 
Kent at having brought young Dick Warrender 
into such a trap. That was his first thought. 
An instant later this and every other emotion 
was swallowed up in amazement. Beneath the 
monstrous Buddha, the figure on the low 
throne, which he had thought might be an 
image of carved ivory or painted wood, moved 
slightly, and he f oimd himself staring into the 
plump, placid, smiling face of — ^Li-kiang-chow ! 

Hope flashed up for a single instant only to 
die swiftly. For though the portly mandarin 
was smiling, there lurked in his slanting eyes a 
sinister expression which was subtly evil. It 
was a look which brought suddenly into Sher- 
wood's mind the remark of a canny old Scotch 
tea planter in Ceylon years ago : "Heaven help 



Trapped 151 

ye, mon, if ye're ever up ag'in a fat villian — 
who smiles ! " 

And close on the heels of that memory un- 
derstanding came to Kent. The identity of the 
notorious Fu-chong was a mystery no longer. 
He and the mandarin of Tsin-tang were one 
and the same persons. They had solved the 
problem which for so long had puzzled the 
whole government of China, but what would 
this avail them now? Bitterly the young man 
wondered how many others might have 
plumbed the mystery as they had done — ^too 
late ! 

Suddenly one plump hand lifted and at the 
signal two stalwart Chinamen advanced. For 
an instant Sherwood was strongly tempted to 
resist, but fortunately sober second thought 
came to him in time. A dozen weapons cov- 
ered them. The slightest movement would be 
inviting instant death. The chances were quite 
in favor of that coming soon enough without 
his doing anything to hasten it. 

With a swift word of caution to Warrender, 



152 The Emerald Buddha 

he gave up his revolver. It was not so easy 
to submit to having his hands tied behind his 
back, but he went through the operation with at 
least a semblance of cool indifference. Their 
hands bound, the two guards led them across 
the cave and paused at the edge of the low plat- 
form. The mandarin surveyed them for a mo- 
ment in silence, with that same placid, evil 
smile ; his painted, purple fan moving gently to 
and fro. 

^'It is kind of you to pay us a call so soon 
again," he murmured presently. 

Kent flushed angrily at the veiled sarcasm in 
his voice. 

"If we'd only known what we know now, we 
needn't have come so far to find — Fu-chong," 
he retorted impulsively. 

"Quite so," nodded the Chinaman pleasantly. 
"But then, you see, it wasn't my purpose to have 
you know sooner. At Tsin-tang there might 
have been some slip. Here — " 

His smile deepened significantly and he 
shrugged his satin-covered shoulders. A faint. 



Trapped 153 

icy chill flickered momentarily on Kent's spine, 
but his head was high and his eyes defiant. 

"Too bad your guides were not a bit more 
clever," he remarked. "They might have 
saved you all this trouble." 

"I'm not sure I expected them to accomplish 
much, returned Fu-chong blandly. "They 
were a stupid pair and one justly met the re- 
ward of failure. And after all it is a pleasure 
to entertain you here for a little while before — 
we part again." 

Abruptly Sherwood realized the futility of 
bandying words with this suave villain. The 
tremendous and passionate instinct of self-pre- 
servation which comes to all men in such a pass, 
now dominated him. He was beginning to 
weigh the situation, to search his mind for pos- 
sible ways of escape, to calculate their chances. 

These seemed slight enough in all certainty, 
but at least they would not be improved by de- 
liberately antagonizing the man before him. 

« 

To delay action by any means in his power 
would be much more sensible, and he was try- 



154 The Emerald Buddha 

ing desperately to think up something to that 
end when all at once he realized that Fu-chor^ 
had ceased to smile on them and was staring 
across the cave with a frown. 

A moment later a Chinaman appeared noise- 
lessly at the edge of the platform and in re- 
sponse to an imperative gesture stepped close 
to the mandarin and whispered in his ear. 
There was a swift interchange of words and 
Fu-chong*s face darkened. For an instant he 
sat silent. Then he furled his purple fan with 
a snap and gave a signal. 

Four of the guards clustered about the door- 
way hastened forward and closed about the 
prisoners. Preceded by the person who had 
been talking to Fu-chong, they moved swiftly 
down the cave between the double row of golden 
dragons for perhaps a hundred feet and then 
turned sharply to the right. 

Sherwood had just time for a hurried back- 
ward glance which revealed the portly man- 
darin sitting upright in his chair, eyes fixed in- 
tently on the barred entrance. Then he was 



Trapped 155 

hustled down a dark, narrow passage, pushed 
along it a dozen paces and finally thrust through 
a doorway into a small, square, dimly lighted 
room. 

Dick was just ahead of him, and before either 
of them had time to realize what was happen- 
ing, they were lying on adjoining couches. 
One of the guards covered them with a re- 
volver while the others deftly and dexterously 
tied their legs with thongs. In a space of sixty 
seconds they were helpless, the door had 
clanged shut and they heard the grating of a 
key in the ponderous lock. 

For a moment the silence remained unbroken. 
Then Kent rolled over on his side and looked at 
Dick Warrender. 

"If only you were out of this. Kid," he mur* 
mured. 

A flush burned into the boy's face and his 
eyes flashed. 

"I don't see why you say that," he retorted. 
"I'd like well enough to be out of it, but I cer- 
tainly wouldn't go alone."  




156 The Emerald Buddha 

'1 know; of course. I didn't mean that 
But I got you into this and I ought to have 
known better. If only you'd stayed — " 

^'Oh, can that!'' cut in Dick impatiently. 
''You couldn't have kept me out." 

This was a sliffht exaggeration, l)ut Kent ap- 
preciated the spirit that prompted it and his 
eyes twinkled. 

"I ought to have made a stab at it, anyhow/' 
he retorted. ''I should have tied you to one 
of those big posts up there, seeing that you 
wouldn't stay behind of your own accord." 
He moved his shoulders slightly. ''Well, no 
use grouching, I suppose. We'd better be 
working our brains to see if there's a chance of 
getting out of this mess." 

His glance left the boy and roved curiously 
about the room — for it was a room and not 
another cave as he had at first supposed. 
There was a wooden floor covered with rugs, 
the couches on which they lay and several 
stands and cabinets of carved teak. On one of 
the fatter stood a graceful, porcelain bowl which 



Trapped 157 

glowed with a soft, subdued light that puzzled 
Sherwood. He had seen just such effects pro- 
duced in modern decoration by an electric globe 
cunningly placed in a vase of porcelain or ala- 
baster. At first thought the presence of elec- 
tricity in such a place as this seemed tcx^ incon- 
gruous to credit. But after all he asked him- 
self presently, why not. in these days of j^erfect 
machinery and easy transp^>rtation? A dy- 
namo of moderate power would easily supply 
all the illumination they had seen so far. Then 
his gaze and his attention bi^th returned to a 
feature of the room which had interested him 

tremendously from the verv first. 

« ft 

Every inch of wall and ceiling was panelled 
in what looked like cedar. This woodwork was 
carved elaboratelv with intricate, archaic de- 
signs, and was plainly of enormous age. Not 
alone did its appearance indicate this. In addi- 
tion it gave out that faint, acrid, curiously pun- 
gent odor of wood slowly disintegrating from 
sheer dry-rot. It might easily have been placed 
there when the ruined monastery above their 



158 The Emerald Buddha 

heads was in its prime, Kent decided, and then 
of a sudden an object across the room riveted 
his attention. 

On a narrow bracket fastened to the panel- 
ling there stood a small, grotesque figure of a 
Fu dog made of golden bronze. It was not 
more than four inches high and, though a fine 
piece of work, was not, in itself, an object of 
great rarity. And yet, when he studied it, 
something in Sherwood's memory faintly 
stirred. Where had he seen that arrangement 
of dog and bracket before ? For a moment or 
two he racked his brain and then the answer 
came suddenly. 

"Dick!" he said in a low, excited voice. 
"Look at the Fu dog on the bracket there* 
Don't you remember that room in the Nan- 
yung temple with panelling like this that they 
said was over a thousand years old? There 
was a carved bracket on the wall and on it just 
such a bronze dog. You pushed the dog a few 
inches to the right and — " 

"A hidden door in the panelling opened ! " 



Trapped 1 59 

gasped the boy. "Great guns, Kent, You 
don't think that—" 

"Haven't the least idea. I do know this, 
though. When the Chinese get hold of a good 
idea, they don't often waste time doping out 
something better, but make another like it. 
Anyhow, it's worth looking into. How are 
your teeth. Kid? Pretty strong? " 

Warrender stared. "Teeth?" he repeated 
blankly. "What the dickens — Oh, I see." 

For already Sherwood had slid off the couch 
and was progressing around the end by rapid 
evolutions of his lithe body. 

"You'll have to come down from there," he 
said in a low tone. "Don't make any more 
noise that you can help. There's almost cer- 
tain to be a guard outside the door. Try my 
hands first. I haven't pulled to test the rope; 
it only tightens the knots." 

He lay on the floor with his back toward the 
light. Dick squirmed over to him, took a good 
look at the knots, and then tackled them with 
his teeth. The job was easier than he had ex- 



i6o The Emerald Buddha 

pected. In five minutes Kent's hands were 
loose and in even less time he had freed his 
legs, untied Warrender's bonds and was on his 
feet. 

With Dick close beside him, he hastily 
crossed the room and, seizing the Fu dog, tried 
to push it to the right. The bronze did not 
stir, and for a moment his heart sank before 
he thought of shoving it the other way. This 
time he was more successful. The little image 
slid over easily ; there came a muffled click, and 
instantly a section of the panelling about two 
feet wide swung out into the room. 



CHAPTER XV 



THE BRONZE LEVER 



The Opening revealed a dark, narrow pas- 
sage not particularly inviting. But Sherwood 
paused only long enough to see that the catch 
could be worked from behind before thrusting 
Dick into it and closing the door after them. 
No matter where the passage led, they could 
scarcely be worse off than in that cedar room. 
Kent felt that this was their only chance, and, 
taking the lead, he moved swiftly forward 
through the darkness, his outstretched hands 
touching the walls on either side. 

The passage turned twice before Sherwood 
stubbed his toe against the bottom of a flight 
of steps. With a thrill of hope he started up 
them, but at the end of the seventeenth step 
the passage resumed its interminable way 
again. There was another sharp turn, and 
then abruptly they came to a wide opening on 

i6i 



1 62 The Emerald Buddha 

the right, where, after a momentary hesita- 
tion, Kent ventured to light a match. 

By its flickering flame he saw that they stood 
at the entrance of a fairly deep recess, the fur- 
ther side of which was made of metal, curiously 
curved and hollowed. To the left it was a 
short flight of narrow steps ending in a small 
door fitted with a simple catch. Directly in the 
middle of the space a long, heavy lever of 
bronze rose from a narrow slot in the wooden 
floor. This much Sherwood observed before 
the match burned out. An instant later a low, 
startled whisper came from Warrender, who 
had remained in the passage to keep watch. 

"Someone's coming ! " 

Sherwood gained the entrance with a bound. 
Approaching along the passage in the opposite 
direction from which they had come, moved a 
lighted lantern. Its rays fell upon a pair of 
legs swathed in loose Chinese trousers and ter- 
minating in felt-soled shoes. Kent caught the 
boy's arm and dragged him into a corner of 
the recess. 



The Bronse Lever 163 

"There's just a chance that he may pass 
by and not see us," he breathed. "If he 
doesn't—" 

Under his fingers Dick's muscles tensed sud- 
denly and he knew that the boy understood. 
Crouching in the corner they waited breath- 
lessly until the light began to flicker in the pas- 
sage. Brighter it grew and brighter still. 
Then all at once it ceased to move and there was 
a little click of metal on stone as if the bearer 
had set it down. A moment later the figure 
of a Chinaman loomed in the entrance. 

Motionless in the corner, lithe body bent 
slightly forward, Kent poised ready for a 
spring. But the man did not pause. With the 
air of one perfectly at home in that semi-dark- 
ness, he swiftly crossed the narrow place and 
lifted up one hand. There was a faint scrap- 
ing and instantly two narrow slits appeared in 
the metal wall at least three feet apart. 
Through them a clear light penetrated, bringing 
into sharp relief the evil face of — ^the man with 
the cropped ears ! 1 



1 64 The Emerald Buddha 

He bent his head a little to peer through one 
of the narrow openings. Without withdraw- 
ing his gaze, his right hand reached out and 
gripped the lever-handle, and he moved slightly 
forward and back as if testing some mechan- 
ism. Then all at once he turned his head and 
saw them. 

A flash of recognition leaped into the evil, 
slanting eyes, followed by intense surprise and 
a sort of venomous purpose, mingled with a 
touch of fear. His lips parted swiftly, but be- 
fore a sound came forth, Kent's fingers closed 
about the skinny throat and he bore the fellow 
backward to the floor. 

A silent struggle followed, fierce yet brief. 
Dick dodged around them trying fruitlessly to 
lend a hand, but at no time was there really any 
need. Sherwood was a mass of live muscle 
strung on steel wire, and when he loosed his 
grip a few minutes later, the Chinaman fell 
back, limp, unconscious. 

Thinking that it might possibly be of later 
use, they had brought along the very cord with 



The Bronze Lever 165 

which they themselves had been tied. With 
this they tightly bound the Chinman and thrust 
a handkerchief into his mouth to gag him. 
Then, while Dick stood guard over the captive, 
Sherwood stepped quickly back to peer through 
one of the narrow slits. 

Then and only then did he realize their 
whereabouts. They were standing inside the 
head of the great bronze Buddha of the cave. 
The slit was merely a peephole in the left eye of 
the image. There could be no doubt about it. 
Within his vision were at least a dozen of the 
golden dragons holding aloft their glowing 
crystal globes. Beyond them Kent could dis- 
tinctly see the entrance, now clear and open, 
with several of the guards standing on either 
side. 

His gaze shifted; paused for a moment on 
the close-fitting yellow satin cap of Fu-chong, 
who sat directly underneath ; flitted to the small 
ebony stand on the mandarin's left hand, 
where, bulging beneath an embroidered cover, 
lay their precious revolvers. Finally it came to 



1 66 The Emerald Buddha 

rest upon a man who stood below the platform. 

He was tall, lean, dark-faced and smoothly 
shaven. At first Sherwood took him for a 
Sikh, whose garb and turban he wore. Then 
he noticed that the spotless linen tunic had been 
torn roughly away from one shoulder and hung 
in tatters. Just below the stranger's throat 
there was a sharp line of color demarcation. 
Above it face and neck were dark as any na- 
tive's. Below that line Kent caught glimpses, 
beneath the tattered linen fragments, of a mus- 
cular chest and upper arm as white as was his 
own. 

The discovery sent through him a shock of 
keen surprise. Then he realized that Fu-chong 
was speaking and strained his ears to hear. 

*'And so you thought that a little dye and a 
change of clothes would, in my eyes, transform 
a British officer into a Sikh," remarked the 
mandarin, his silky tones tinctured with not a 
little irritation. "I thank you for the compli- 
ment to my intelligence. No doubt you also 
supposed that your horde of Indian soldiers so 



The Bronze Lever 167 

flimsily disguised as bearers of the opium cara- 
van would be admitted here without question. 
It must have been an unpleasant surprise to find 
yourself obliged to precede them alone." 

He paused, but the man before him made no 
answer. Erect, soldierly in spite of his bonds, 
his clear, brown eyes fearlessly returned the 
mandarin's heavy-lidded stare. Watching 
him, Sherwood felt a thrill of admiration at the 
fellow's courage. 

"Stubborn," murmured Fu-chong at length. 
"I fear it will do no good. We have you safe 
and do not mean to let you go. I wonder what 
those men of yours will think when the days 
pass and you fail to return ?" 

Still the man was silent. And now, of a sud- 
den, Kent observed for the first time the curious 
bronze slab set into the floor of the cave di- 
rectly at the foot of the platform. It was par- 
tially covered by a rug and he had not noticed 
it before. But from this point of vantage it 
stood out clearly — ^a rectangle of bronze some 
twelve feet long by a third as wide, centering 



1 68 The Emerald Buddha 

directly on the great Buddha. The stranger 
stood a few inches beyond its further margin. 

Sherwood was conscious of a sudden, unac- 
countable interest in that slab. What was it 
there for ? What purpose did it serve ? Like 
many wanderers in strange climes where dan- 
ger often lurks in unexpected guises, he had ac- 
quired an almost uncanny power of sensing evil. 
And now, abruptly, that bronze slab loomed 
in his brain as a distinct menace, vivid and im- 
minent. His interest in the problem caused 
him to miss a few words from the creature in 
the yellow cap below him. Then all at once Fu- 
chong's voice rang out harshly : 

"Step forward V' 

The Englishman did not stir, but for the first 
time he broke his prolonged silence. 

"Why should I?" he demanded icily. 
"YouVe got me. You can drag me anywhere 
you like by force, not otherwise. And let me 
tell you this. You talk about those men of 
mine wondering what has happened to me. 
They'll wonder, but they'll wait — ^wait 'till 



The Bronze Lever 169 

Doomsday. They'll wait until you and your 
litter of beastly, burrowing rats are starved 
enough to crawl out into their hands. No mat- 
ter what you do to me, you've got to face that." 

Silence, tense, pregnant, followed for an in- 
stant those defiant words. Then suddenly, 
with surprising nimbleness, Fu-chong sprang 
up and stepped down swiftly from the platform. 
Lifting the folded purple fan, he struck the of- 
ficer across his face with a force which splin- 
tered into fragments the ivory sticks. 

"You scum !" he snarled furiously. 

Swiftly responsive to that leaping crimson 
welt, the blood flamed hotly into Sherwood's 
face. His hands clenched, driving the nails 
painfully into his palms. The intuitive sense of 
imminent peril grew more pressing. Somehow 
he had begun to connect it with the slab, and 
his brain wrestled desperately with the prob- 
lem. What was it there for ? Fu-chong stood 
squarely on it — squarely and safely; and 
yet — . . . Ah! A sudden, blinding light 
flashed into Sherwood's consciousness. The 



170 The Emerald Buddha 

crop-eared Chinaman had come into that re- 
cess with a purpose. . . . The lever! Could 
that be it? 

With quick impulsiveness he grasped the 
handle of the bronze rod and thrust forward 
with all his strength. 

There came a muffled, grinding jar. A 
scream, shrill, terrifying, horrible, rang 
through the cave. The slab swung down 
abruptly, revealing glimpses of a bottomless 
abyss, out of which came the sotmd of rushing 
water. Fu-chong tottered, clawed frantically 
at the lower step of the platform, and then, 
with another shriek that froze the blood, he 
vanished out of sight. 






CHAPTER XVI 

THE END OF FU-CHONG 

For one brief, paralyzed second Sherwood 
stood rigid, sweat dampening his forehead. 
Then, as his glance took in the stunned and 
frightened group of Chinamen over by the 
door, he awoke to instant action. 

Quick!" he ripped out to Dick Warrender. 
Fu-chong's done for — dropped into the bowels 
of the earth. The others are scared stiff. 
Our only chance is to rush 'em before they come 
to. I know where the gtms are." 

He had remembered the narrow flight of 
steps leading down from one corner of the re- 
cess and felt that the door at the bottom must 
open into the cave, close to the right hand of 
the Buddha. Gripping in one hand the slim, 
straight knife he had taken from the crop- 
eared Chinaman, he swiftly darted down the 

171 



172 The Emerald Buddha 

stairs, thrust the door open> and with Dick close 
at his heels, sprang out upon the platform. 

At the appearance of these two, whom they 
supposed helpless captives in the cedar room, a 
gasping shudder rose from the throng huddled 
about the doorway. Already dazed and ap- 
palled by the fate of their leader, whom they 
had regarded as invulnerable; ignorant and 
superstitious at best; this new development 
seemed to their addled minds a fresh evidence 
of their god's displeasure. 

As Sherwood twitched the cover from the 
stand on which lay the revolvers, one of the 
guards fired a hasty shot in their direction. 
But the bullet went wild, striking the sacred 
Buddha on the breast and bringing added con- 
sternation to minds already on the verge of 
panic. A shot or two fired at random com- 
pleted the work and sent them scurrying to 
right and left like rats seeking their burrows. 

Nevertheless, Kent did not deem it safe to 
linger. He took the gaping chasm in a running 
jump and paused beside the stalwart English- 



The End of Fur-Chong 173 

man, who had scarcely stirred from his first 
position. A stroke or two of the keen knife 
freed the stranger's hands. 

"Thanks," the latter murmured coolly. 
"You chaps are extraordinarily well timed, you 
know." 

Sherwood grinned briefly. "You've some 
men up above, haven't you ?" he asked briefly. 

The other nodded. 

"Well, let's get to them," pursued Sherwood. 
"These beggars are a rotten lot, but even rats 
fight when they're cornered. I'd like to have 
the odds a little more in our favor before they 
wake up and realize the trap they're in." 

He started briskly across the cave with Dick. 
The Englishman paused a moment to glance 
into the cavity at his feet with an expression of 
profound satisfaction. Then he hastened after 
the others. 

They found the entrance clear, and lost no 
time in mounting the winding stairs. The door 
in the stone column opened easily from within, 
and while Sherwood remained there to guard it, 



174 The Emerald Buddha 

Warrender and the officer, whose name was 
Curtis, hastened out into the courtyard. 

This was a scene of the liveliest animation. 
Saddle horses and laden pack animals were 
tethered here and there. Two large fires were 
burning and around them were gathered up- 
wards of fifty Hindoos and Sikhs, who started 
up with exclamations of pleasure and relief as 
the officer appeared. 

A few words from him sent them scurrying 
for their weapons, their dark faces fierce and 
determined. A couple of minutes later, under 
the leadership of a native officer, they were ad- 
vancing toward the ruin in a compact, soldierly 
body. 

"They're a fine lot," observed Captain Cur- 
tis. "I picked them especially when we hit on 
this scheme of sending up a fake opium caravan 
to catch that fox, Fu-chong. He was a fox, 
too, by Jove ! I had no idea he'd insist on my 
coming in first alone, and of course I couldn't 
draw back then without spoiling the whole 
show. If it hadn't been for you chaps — " 



The End of Fu^Chong 175 

"We were just as easy," protested the boy. 
"You see, we'd heard something abotit the loca- 
tion of this place and our idea was to spy about 
and make sure. Instead, we walked into a trap 
as nicely as you please. Though it was a 
pretty good trap," he added defensively. 

"And you don't seem to have stayed in it 
long," observed the Englishman. "I've been 
through some odd experiences, but I don't think 
I've ever had quite such a shock as when that 
fat devil went suddenly through the floor, claw- 
ing ind squealing. To see him fall into his 
own trap so neatly was really worth all the pre- 
vious wear and tear on my nervous system. 
I'm most awfully keen to hear how you man- 
aged it, and a little later — Well, here we are. 
Now let's get to business." 

A little more than two hours afterwards they 
were standing again in the great cave of the 
golden dragons. Fu-chong's adherents, who 
had been run to earth and captured almost 
without resistance, were now safely under 
guard in the monastery courtyard. Captain 



176 The Emerald Buddha 

Curtis and the two Americans had swopped 
stories and a few minutes before had returned 
from a thorough exploration of the under- 
grotmd retreat. Besides finding conclusive 
evidence that it was the headquarters of the 
opium smugglers, they had come upon a num- 
ber of ingenious modern improvements, in- 
cluding the electric dynamo Kent suspected. 

Best of all was the discovery in a little room 
opening off the secret passage of an extremely 
up-to-date steel safe cleverly placed within a 
cabinet of red lacquer. It was locked, but a 
little mental pressure applied to Fu-chong's 
right hand man induced him to supply the com- 
bination. It contained an amazing store of 
money and jewels, together with several bun- 
dles of papers amongst which Kent tri- 
umphantly unearthed the two pertaining to the 
Emerald Buddha which they had so long been 
seeking. 

"I see no reason why you shouldn't simply 
take them and say nothing," said Captain Cur- 
tis when they returned to the central cave. 



The End of Fu^Chong 177 

"Of course I shall have to report the result of 
this raid to the Chinese government and stay 
here until they take charge of the place and the 
prisoners. If you should wait *till then and 
make a formal demand for the stolen papers, 
you'd be involved in all sorts of delays and red 
tape." 

"That would be much the simplest way, of 
course,*' agreed Kent. "You're sure you won't 
be getting into any sort of trouble by letting us 
have them T\ 

The Englishman laughed. "I'll take a 
chance" he answered. "To begin with I doubt 
whether anyone, except a few of the prisoners, 
perhaps, knows of their existence, and they're 
not likely to think of them now. Besides, if 
the question ever did come up, I should merely 
say that the papers were stolen property and 
I had turned them over to their rightful own- 



ers. 



"Well, I'm sure we're awfully obliged — ^" 
"You needn't be," interrupted Curtis quickly. 
"As a matter of fact it's quite the other way 




178 7 Emerald Buddha 

around If it hadn't been for you two chaps, 
I should probably by this time be feeding the 
fishes instead of Fu-chong — if there are fishes 
down in that beastly hole. What do you mean 
to do now ?" he added curiously. 

"Start back to Shanghai at once and take 
ship there for Borneo," answered Sherwood 
promptly. "Once at Labuan we'll have to pick 
up guides and porters and get together a lot of 
supplies, for according to these papers it's 
rather a long trip up country." 

"Jove !" murmured the officer, his eyes spark- 
ling. "I wish I was going with you. It will 
be a fascinating search." 

Sherwood smiled. "We'd like nothing bet- 
ter than your company," he returned promptly. 
"If you could get leave — " 

"Ah, but I can't," sighed Curtis. "It's very 
good of you, but I shall be stuck here at this 
beastly business for months. You know the 
Chinese methods. Well, suppose we join the 
men. I'm pretty hungry, and you chaps must 
be almost starved." 



The End of Fu-Chong 179 

He crossed the cave, but at the entrance he 
paused for an instant to glance back at the 
glowing, colorful, weirdly silent, desolately 
empty spaces behind him. 

"It's certainly a rum place,*' he remarked 
"Do you imagine Fu-chong was responsible for 
that gorgeous equipment?" 

"Oh, no!" returned Sherwood quickly. 
"Most of the stuff has been here for ages. 
That cedar room, for instance, the big Buddha 
and those golden dragons are as old as the 
ruins above us. So is that bronze trap letting 
down into the underground river. I Ve an idea 
the whole place was once an adjunct to the old 
monastery. In all probability Fu-chong merely 
discovered it and adapted it to suit his pur- 
pose." 

"He made a good job of it," commented Cur- 
tis, moving on down the passage toward the 
curving stairs. "It's rather the irony of Fate, 
isn't it? that in the end he should have been 
caught in his own beastly trap." 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE WRECK OF THE OCEAN QUEEN 

Early the following morning Sherwood and 
Warrender, having recovered their horses and 
belongings, waved farewell to Captain Curtis 
and set out on the journey back to Tsin-tang. 
They were accompanied by three Sikh soldiers 
and one of Fu-chong's captured band to act as 
a guide. Toward noon, coming out on a road 
which, according to the Chinaman, led straight 
to the city, the soldiers and their prisoner 
turned back, leaving the two Americans to pro- 
ceed alone. 

They reached Tsin-tang about sunset and 
went straight to their old inn where they 
learned that a boat would start down the river 
early the following morning. Having ar- 
ranged to take passage on it, and conveyed their 
luggage to the quay, they ordered supper and 
turned in early. 

i8o 



The Wreck of the Ocean Queen i8i 

A guarded inquiry elicited from the inn- 
keeper the information that Li-kiang-chow was 
temporarily absent from the city on important 
business. Evidently no inkling of the true state 
of affairs had as yet become public property, 
for which Sherwood was very thankful. He 
had no wish to be detained by Chinese officials 
as a witness or anything of the sort, and it was 
with considerable relief that they boarded 
the little steamer without interference and 
watched, from the after deck, the low roofs and 
massive buildings of Tsin-tang fade slowly out 
of sight. 

Fortune favored them on the return trip. 
The stop at Ho-kansu was long enough for 
them to pick up the precious jade and other 
purchases left there at the inn. But after that 
there were few delays, and they arrived at 
Shanghai just in time to engage passage on the 
Ocean Queen, bound for Borneo, Java and the 
Malaysian Islands. 

After the strenuous activity of the past few 
weeks, it was distinctly pleasant to settle down 



li^ The Emerald Buddha 

into the restful calm of ship life. Their vessel 
wus a trader of moderate tomiage carrying 
only a few passengers, none of rwhom proved 
interesting enough to encourage anything like 
intimacy. Indeed, the two Americans rather 
preferred to be let alone, and they spent most 
of their time lounging idly in deck chairs dis- 
cussing their recent strange adventures or lay- 
ing plans for the future. 

For the first few days the weather was calm 
and very hot. All day long the sun beat 
fiercely out of a cloudless sky until the pitch 
fairly bubbled in the seams, and in spite of the 
thinnest clothing the heat was almost intoler- 
able. At dusk, however, a breeze usually 
sprang up, lasting well through the night, and 
reviving exhausted passengers and crew, and 
making it possible to get through another torrid 
day. 

Then, in the middle of the China Sea, a sud- 
den gale struck them which came near proving 
the end of the Ocean Queen and everyone on 
board. As Sherwood strongly suspected, it 



The Wreck of the Ocean Queen 183 

was really a typhoon, and all that saved them 
from going down was the fact that they were 
nearer the edge than the center of the disturb- 
ance. As it was, the ship was caught up and 
carried along irresistibly, and for most of an 
afternoon and half the night she battled des- 
perately for her life against the furious winds 
and colossal seas. 

Warrender, whose only deep water experi- 
ence had been that placid voyage from Van- 
couver to Hongkong, was awe-struck and 
alarmed, but he did his best to emulate Sher- 
wood's coolness. Battened below deck and un- 
able to stir without being flung about by the 
ship's violent tossing, they spent most of the 
time in their cabin. Sleep, of course, was out 
of the question; without being roped in they 
could not even have kept their berths. Spread- 
ing mattresses on the floor, they braced them- 
selves against the solid woodwork and en- 
deavoured by conversation to forget the peril 
and discomfort of their plight. 

Shortly after midnight Sherwood began to 



184 The Emerald Buddha 

notice a definite lessening of the tempest. An 
hour later the cessation of motion was blissfully 
evident, and he left the cabin to find out how 
things were going and whether the ship had 
been in any way damaged. He presently re- 
turned with the news that the second mate and 
three of the Kanaka crew had been washed 
overboard, part of the bridge smashed by the 
powerful -waves, and the hull severely strained 
and leaking in several places. 

"They've started the pumps, though, and 
have the water well under control," he added re- 
assuringly. "It must have been a mighty close 
squeeze, all right, and I'd hate to think what 
another hour or two of that wrenching might 
have done. However, Captain Briggs says 
we're riding out of it, and there's no more dan- 
ger, so we may as well make up the bunks and 
try and get a little sleep." 

It was good advice, of course, but Dick War- 
render did not find it easy to follow. Tired as 
he was, his nerves were distinctly jumpy, and 
it seemed hours before he finally dozed off. 



The Wreck of the Ocean Queen 185 

lulled by the growing steadiness of the vessel. 

His next conscious realization was of a ter- 
rific crash which flung him clear of the bunk 
to sprawl full length on the floor. It was fol- 
lowed by a crushing, grinding, colossal up- 
heaval of the vessel's hull, a shuddering tremor, 
a sickening downward lurch. And then, as the 
boy crouched there, stunned and bewildered, 
screams rose from far and near — ^hoarse, bel- 
lowing, or shrill with fear ; doors began to slam 
and feet padded swiftly along the corridor out- 
side. Suddenly Sherwood's hand, fumbling in 
the darkness, touched his shoulder. 

"Slip on a few clothes," the man said in a 
tense, strained voice. "Hurry !" 

Dick obeyed as quickly as he could. It was 
pitch dark, for the electric switch failed to re- 
spond to repeated pressing of the button, and 
nothing seemed to be where it ought. His 
hands were shaking nervously, but he finally 
managed to retrieve and drag on a pair of trou- 
sers, shirt and rubber-soled shoes, and followed 
Kent into the corridor. 



iS6 The Emerald Buddha 

There was no light here, either, and the floor 
h"sted oddly toward the forward companion- 
way. Sherwood hesitated an instant and then 
catching Dick by one arm, felt his way in the 
opposite direction. Part way along a cabin 
door was jerked open and a shadowy figure, 
from which came incoherent sounds of fright, 
pushed past them and ran forward. He van- 
ished instantly in the blackness and with a 
grunt, Kent dived down a short side passage, 
climbed a strangely tilted stair and with War- 
render close at his heels, gained the after deck. 
The sky was clear save for a few tattered 
remnants of cloud that streamed across the yel- 
V crescent moon. The ship sloped perilously 
-ward, and from the bowels of her came 
ange, terrifying noises — the screech of rip- 
;g iron, the sharp crack of parting timbers, 
lissing roar of steam from broken pipes, 
latever she had struck, whether floating 
■elict or unchartered reef, the Ocean Queen 
5 very evidently doomed. 
iVhere the two stood the deck was deserted, 



The Wreck of the Ocean Queen 187 

but forward around the starboard boats there 
surged a mob of fighting, screaming men the 
sight of which turned Dick's blood cold. 

There were naked, dark-skinned Kanakas, 
wild-eyed and panic stricken ; sooty-faced stok- 
ers with bare, brawny arms and chests, half- 
clothed passengers and stewards, all struggling 
together like madmen for places in the boats. 
Against them the few officers had small chance 
of lowering and filling these in any sort of or- 
der. Indeed, even as the two friends stood 
there aghast, the mob made a sudden concerted 
rush at a boat just swinging out on its davits. 
Twice a pistol spat viciously, but it might have 
been loaded with blank cartridges for all the 
eflFect it had. The crowd surged on and over 
the blue-clad figures dimly visible in the moon- 
light. In an instant the boat was filled far be- 
yond its capacity. And then, through some ac- 
cident or evil design, the block ropes parted sud- 
denly, and the stern swung down abruptly, 
spilling the whole raving, screaming load of hu- 
manity into the sea. 



i88 The Emerald Buddha 

Dick gave a stifled cry of horror and Sher- 
wood gripped his arm. 

"Come around to the port side," he said 
hoarsely. "There's no chance here. Those 
devils—" 

But as they were passing the companionway, 
a man with an armful of packages darting up 
from below, collided with Warrender and was 
almost knocked off his feet. As Kent reached 
out and steadied him, he recognized the face of 
Daggett, their table steward. 

"Mr. Sherwood!" gasped the man. He 
hesitated an instant and stumbled on toward 
the stern. "Come on!" he cried jerkily over 
one shoulder. "WeVe got a boat. . . . 
There's room. . . . Hurry!" 

The two needed no urging. Darting after 
the steward, they came suddenly upon a grimed 
and burly stoker standing before the port rail 
aft of the shattered deck house. Tied to the 
railing beside him was a rope which dangled 
down into a small boat holding two occupants. 



The Wreck of the Ocean Queen 189 

The stoker greeted their appearance with a 
snarl. 

"It's only Mr. Sherwood and the boy, Bill," 
panted the steward. "We've room enough." 

"There ain't room for the whole bloody ship- 
load," growled the fellow. "Gimme them." 
He snatched the parcels from Daggett's arms 
and tossed them into the boat. "Look sharp. 



now." 



Daggett seized the rope and scrambled over 
the side. It was not much of a drop, for the 
ship was perilously low in the water and seemed 
to be settling visibly. The stoker went next, 
and he was scarcely out of sight before Sher- 
wood swung the boy over and followed hastily 
himself. 

They all landed in a confused heap and im- 
mediately the boat was thrust off and the two 
seaman pulled furiously away from the sinking 
ship. Dick managed to crawl forward a little 
and presently found himself beside the stoker, 
pulling vigorously on an oar which had be^n 



190 The Emerald Buddha 

thrust into his hands. They were not more 
than a hundred yards away from the Ocean 
Queen when a sudden, violent explosion shook 
the vessel from stem to stern. A cloud of 
steam belched from the open hatchways, the 
bow settled abruptly, throwing the stern for 
an instant clear out of water. A moment later, 
amidst a fresh burst of frenzied screaming 
from the deck, the shattered hull slid out of 
sight beneath the waves. 



CHAPTER XVIII 



SKELETON ISLAND 



For a space Dick was fully occupied in strug- 
gling against the powerful suction which 
caught their boat and threatened to drag it 
down. When this had passed he heard Sher- 
wood speaking. 

"But oughtn't we go back and try to pick up 
some of those poor wretches ?" he cried impul- 
sively. 

"Back, me eye !" growled one of the seamen. 
'What show would we have against that crowd, 
I arsk yer? They'd swamp us in two jerks. 
Pull, you bloody swab!" he added to his seat- 
mate. "We don't want to waste no time gettin' 
away from here." 

Evidently Sherwood must have realized the 

futility of argument, for he made no further 

protest and silence fell upon the boat. Dick 

191 



192 The Emerald Buddha 

rowed mechanically, his mind still numbed by 
the suddenness and horror of the catastrophe. 
Indeed, even yet, the whole thing seemed more 
like an awful nightmare than something which 
had really happened before his eyes. It was 
incredible that everyone on board save them- 
selves could have perished. Now and then as 
the boat topped the crest of the waves, he 
strained his eyes over that desolate waste of 
water in search of other boats which might pos- 
sibly have gotten away in time. But the height 
of the sea and the uncertain light made it dif- 
ficult to distinguish anything more than a hun- 
dred yards or so away. 

Presently the boy learned from the broken 
talk of those about him that the disaster had 
been caused by a collision with the floating hull 
of a good-sized steamer. All her upper works 
were gone and she lay so low in the water that 
the warning cry of the lookout and the terrific 
impact of collision came almost simultaneously. 

Two of the men, Soames and Clancy, had the 
good fortune to be on deck and managed to 



Skeleton Island 193 

lower the quarter-boat just ahead of that fren- 
zied rush of terrified hiunanity. They let her 
drift back alongside the deserted stern, where 
they were joined by Daggett, and the stoker, 
Midkiff • It was the steward's hurried dash be- 
low for provisions which alone saved Sherwood 
and Warrender from the fate which seemed to 
have overtaken the rest of the passengers and 
crew. . . . Dick wondered with an unpleasant 
sinking of his heart, whether they had really es- 
caped that fate or merely delayed it a little. 

Toward dawn it was possible to step the 
small mast and hoist a lugsail, and Dick 
shipped his oar with a feeling of relief. His 
muscles were sore from the unaccustomed ex- 
ercise and his palms beginning to blister. 
Also he was conscious of a growing hunger 
which almost equalled his consuming thirst, 
and he watched with the greatest interest the 
opening of a bag of ship's biscuit and the 
broaching of the water beaker. 

While this was being done the sun rose blind- 
ingly above the sea line, turning the vast 




194 The Emerald Buddha 

surface of heaving water into a sheet of molten 
metal. It sucked up the faint mist and climb- 
ing swiftly into the dazzling sky, blazed down 
upon the little boat, the only moving thing in all 
that infinite expanse of ocean. 

The men calculated that with economy their 
provisions might last a week, but there was only 
water enough for three or four days. The 
situation, indeed, could not well be more ser- 
ious, and while they consumed their slender 
meal a serious discussion arose as to the proper 
course to take. 

Dick took no part in this. For a time he lis- 
tened interestedly, but with a growing dislike 
for Midkiff who was evidently one of those 
blustering, loudmouthed persons who stub- 
bornly refuse to consider any opinion save their 
own. No one disputed the fact that the Ocean 
Queen had been driven far out of her course by 
the storm. But Midkiff obstinately contended 
that this deflection had been due south and that 
their best chance of making land would be to 



Skeleton Island 195 

head eastward toward the Philippines. Sher- 
wood, backed by what he had learned from 
Captain Briggs shortly after midnight, knew 
that the storm had carried them much more to 
the east than south, and held that by shaping 
their course southward they would stand a fair 
chance of striking some of the small islands oflF 
the coast of Luzon. But he might as well have 
tried to move a stone image as to influence Mid- 
kiff, and the discussion was rapidly assuming an 
acrimonious tone when Dick, who was standing 
up, supporting himself by the mast, gave a sud- 
den, excited shout. 

"There's a ship!" he cried, pointing to the 
eastward. "I can see her sail." 

Instantly the wrangling ceased and several 
of the men leaped up and stared eagerly in that 
direction. Sherwood, with one hand on War- 
render's shoulder, studied the sea line long and 
intently. 

''By Jove !" he exclaimed at length. "I be- 
lieve it's land." 



196 The Emerald Buddha 

"Guflf!" growled Midkiff, blinking in the 
glare. "Tell that to yer grandmother. It's 
nuthin' but clouds." 

Nevertheless, though grudgingly, he yielded 
to the clamor of the others and the boat was 
headed for the distant speck. At first this was 
very faint and indistinct, and might have been 
almost anything. But presently, when it failed 
to move, the theory of ship or cloud was aban- 
doned, and at length it resdved itself unmis- 
takably into a mass of tall palms. 

The shimmer of the sea gave them the curi- 
ous appearance of floating in the air. But as 
the boat drew slowly nearer, one detail after 
another emerged from the blinding glare, until 
at last the whole flat surface of a coral atoll of 
considerable size lay before them. 

It was a wide, irregular, roughly circular 
ring enclosing a lagoon a mile or more in di- 
ameter. Here and there were open spaces, but 
for the most part a dense forest growth 
crowded its surface. Palms, breadfruit, cane 



Skeleton Island 197 

and a dozen other tropical varieties clustered 
together above impenetrable thickets of under- 
growth. Between these and the placid blue la- 
goon glistened a stretch of hardpacked, sandy 
beach, and the whole picture was one of such 
perfect snugness and security that spontaneous 
cries of delight burst from the refugees. 

There was a break in the reef about fifty feet 
wide toward which Clancy, who was at the 
tiller, steered without question. Outside, the 
surf boomed steadily against the coral bul- 
warks, but the lagoon was quiet as a mill pond, 
and as the boat slid through the opening and 
was headed for the nearest shore, Sherwood 
laughed aloud from sheer relief. 

"Pretty soft, fellows!" he exclaimed. "I 
never thought we'd strike anything like this. 
I don't believe—" 

He paused, staring ahead intently. They 
were within twenty yards or so of shore, and 
Soames and Daggett were unstepping the mast, 
which for a moment or two obscured Kent's vi- 



198 The Emerald Buddha 

sion. When this had been stowed away, how- 
ever, he resumed his inspection eagerly, and 
swiftly came to a definite decision. 

Back of the sweep of white sand the trees 
clustered thickly, save at one spot a little to 
the left of where they were heading, where 
they were broken by an artificial looking 
clearing. 

It was evidently not a recent one. No raw 
stumps showed amongst the greenery, and a 
luxuriant tangle of vines and undergrowth cov- 
ered the entire surface. But Sherwood felt 
sure it had been made by man, and the glimpse 
of a low, long roof line presently confirmed his 
guess. 

For a few moments the boat was halted while 
its occupants searched the clearing and the 
surrounding forest with keen, apprehensive 
glances. But the place was so clearly deserted 
that they presently took heart and, pulling for 
the shore, leaped out and dragged the boat well 
up on the beach. 

"That's no native hut," declared Sherwood 



Skeleton Island 199 

suddenly, as they paused through the tangle 
that blocked their way. 

"Huh !" grunted Midkiff . "You know a lot, 
don't you ? Next thing you'll be tellin' us it's 
some bloody English lord's country place." 

Kent's only response was an impatient shrug 
and a slight curling of his lips. He was grow- 
ing distinctly weary of Midkiff's surliness, but 
just now was far too interested in what lay 
ahead of them to enter into any altercation. 
Thrusting aside the last obstruction, he found 
himself in front of a long, low, log hut with a 
sloping, palm-thatched roof, much rotted and 
decayed, the side nearest him pierced by two 
windows and a door. 

The windows were tightly shuttered, but the 
door stood partly open. Just what made him 
hesitate to enter, Sherwood could not tell. But 
pause he did, and the others, clustering about 
him, seemed to feel the same subtle repellence. 
For a long moment they halted there, a silent, 
huddled group, staring intently at the shadowy 
space between the door and the rough-hewn 




200 The Emerald Buddha 

jamb. Then Sherwood^ with a sudden, impa- 
tient movement, stepped briskly forward and 
pushed across the threshold. 

Reluctantly the door moved back with a 
shriek of rusty hinges that was drowned by 
Sherwood's startled exclamation. 

"Good Lord!" 

Dick was the first to follow him, and as he 
peered around his friend's shoulder, his eyes 
widened with surprise and horror. 

The room, a fairly large one, was in the 
greatest possible disorder. The few pieces of 
roughly made furniture lay overturned. The 
floor was covered by an extraordinary medley 
of crumpled papers, torn magazines, mouldy 
wearing apparel, broken dishes and rusty tin- 
ware, over which a heavy coating of fine, im- 
palpable dust had settled. 

All this Dick Warrender perceived in- 
tuitively, for his gaze was riveted upon the 
gruesome spectacle just opposite the door. 
Against the further wall stood a large roughly- 



Skeleton Island 201 

made arm chair, lying in which, in a queer, hud- 
dled posture, the skull sagging sidewise against 
one gleaming shoulder blade, were the bleached 
white bones of a human skeleton ! 



CHAPTER XIX 



SINISTER RELICS 



In the brief, tense pause that followed, Dick 
felt Daggett's breath hot against his neck and 
heard muttered exclamations from Soames and 
Clancy. Then Midkiff 's surly voice broke the 
silence. 

"What you waitin' for, anyhow?" he 
growled. "Afraid of that old bag o' bones ?'* 

But the boy noticed that in spite of his bra- 
vado, the hulking stoket was the last to enter 
the gloomy, disordered room, and during the 
examination which followed he rather point- 
edly refrained from venturing near the grue- 
some object huddled in the depths of the big 
chair. 

The sinister character of their discovery be- 
came only too quickly evident. Coils of stout 
rope, dangling loosely enough now, showed that' 



202 



Sinister Relics 203 

the victim had been tied firmly into the chair, 
•while a crushing fracture of the skull bore evi- 
dence to the manner of his death. The rotting 
remnants of thin cotton pajamas which hung in 
strips about the gruesome figure, yielded no clue 
to the unknown's identity ; but the extreme dis- 
order of the room more than hinted at a motive 
for the crime. 

''Robbery, I should say," remarked Sher- 
wood, when they had looked about a little and 
peeped into a small, cluttered bedroom adjoin- 
ing. "Whatever they were after was hidden 
mighty* well, too, from the way everything is 
torn to bits. Where does that door go to, Dag- 
gett?" 

He pointed to a small, closed door in a dark- 
ish corner opposite the entrance to the bedroom 
and as the steward turned to open it the others 
watched him interestedly. 

"But — ^those ropes?" questioned Dick, eyeing 
the skeleton with mingled curiosity and repug- 
nance. "Db you suppose he — ^he knew, and 
wouldn't tell?" 



204 The Emerald Buddha 

"It seems likely/' nodded Sherwood. "Of 
course it's all only guesswork, but I can't think 
of any other reason for his being tied up and 
then killed I wonder what they were after ?" 

"Something pretty nice, you can bet," ob- 
served Soames. "Murder ain't usually done 
for trifles. If this wasn't a coral reef, I'd say 
he might have struck gold, an' maybe some oth- 



ir 



What is it, Daggett?" interrupted Kent, as 
the steward, having forced open the door, 
paused on the threshold with a disgusted snort. 

Daggett shrugged his shoulders. "Nothing 
but shells," he sniffed. "The whole blooming 
shed is full of oyster shells." 

For a moment there was an odd silence, 
fraught, even to Warrender's inexperienced 
mind, with a curious sort of tension. It was 
broken by Midkiff, who moved swiftly forward. 

"Shells!" he repeated hoarsely, pushing 
roughly past Daggett. "Lemme have a look at 



em. 



He bent over, fumbling for a moment in the 



Sinister Relics 205 

darkness. When he straightened up and 
turned toward the light, his face was flushed, 
and there was a queer gleam in the eyes fixed 
so eagerly on the shells clutched in both 
hands. 

"Pearl sheU!" he nmttered excitedly. "By 
gcer 

He looked up suddenly to meet Sherwood's 
curious, searching glance, and a sullen scowl 
furrowed his low forehead. 

I — ^I guess they ain't, either," he mumbled 
After all, they ain't nothin' but common — oys- 
ters/' 

'"You know the/re not." Without hesitat- 
tion Sherwood reached out and plucked one of 
the shells from his hands. "They're pearl 
shell," he added quietly. "Anybody who's ever 
seen them would know that. They Icxk to me 
like the finest quality, too." 

Midkiff glared at him venomously out of 
narrowed, angry eyes. Clancy's jaw sagged, 
and Soames' face lit up with sudden excite- 
ment. 






2o6 The Emerald Buddha 

''You mean they had pearls in 'em?" he de- 
manded* 

"Not necessarily, but they're the sort of oys- 
ter that produces pearls. Mother-of-pearl is 
made from the shells. There must have been 
a fishery out there in the lagoon ; it's an ideal 
place for it That would account for this 
shack, and — " 

"But Where's the pearls gone?" broke in 
SoameSy his eyes full of a sudden, overwhelm- 
ing greed "With all them shells they must 
have got some pearls." 

Kent shrugged his shoulders. "I dare say 
they did," he answered quietly. He gave a sig- 
nificant glance around the disordered room. 
"Pearls would certainly account for — ^this." 

"You mean they're — ^they're gone !" 

Sherwood could not help smiling at the ex- 
pression of indignant disappointment in the fel- 
low's face. One might have thought him sud- 
denly and unjustly deprived of a treasure right- 
fully his. 

"You've got me," he answered. "I'm no 




RtSks ^'^' 






5e9fcnr 



._ to taK » VmxK »« ^^^^ 
'off hwu\ J •»»»»«»«»'<"•*' 





^ or whether «li«V I'lnn.P^' ;' 



«rf, if tf«y didn't. Uhm.'« |ii"l;" [^^'' 
ofoarsuccecdhmwIl'M^lll", M"^ ' 

riK Mank alencc th«l I'iIImW"! *' > ' ' ' 



i' your imt't'in, hIi, I»> ) '' ' 

,ritlianuncon8doui.l.M»-lMl.ll)i>nVyj i 
5,ddress,"butmiKhtn'MllM.h>.l>^^^- ^';^ 

***Lrwoodnoa.M. "A »>m>l»V>»»>^ ^"^^^ ^^^^^^ 

trying to locat..o.n.llnu^il.v»vM^>|V»^;"^^;;;; 
up the shack »o It'll ha lU to -Iv^^^P »»»' »^^*»^»'^ 



2o8 The Emerald Buddha 

that we've got to hunt up food and water, col- 
lect fire wood, and do a lot of things that are 
more important just now than fishing up pearl 
oysters which can't possibly get away." 

Midkiff objected sullenly, apparently out of 
sheer cussedness, but the others seemed to re- 
alize the commonsense of Kent's suggestion, 
and under his directions the cleaning of the 
shack went forward briskly. 

First of all the gruesome remains of the un- 
known man were carried out on a piece of 
mouldy cloth and buried decently in the sand. 
Then all the windows were thrown open and 
the contents of the hut taken outside where the 
rubbish was burned and anything which might 
be of the least possible use put aside for airing 
or later cleaning. 

A number of tools and implements turned up, 
amongst them a brush hook which was a great 
help in clearing away the undergrowth around 
the shack. During this process the source of a 
spring was uncovered to one side of the build- 
ing, and when they stopped for a late dinner of 



Sinister Relics 209 

tinned meat and biscuit, the place had been 
transformed. 

"All we need now is food," remarked Sher- 
wood when they had finished. "There must be 
plenty of fish in the lagoon, and from right here 
I can see more cocoanuts than we could eat in 
a year. I move we divide up in pairs this after- 
noon and do a little exploring. Some of us can 
take the boat and that tackle we found in the 
hut and go out on the lagoon, while the others 
scout through the woods and see what can be 
turned up in the way of fruit." 

Midkiflf hastily announced his determination 
to do the fishing and picked Clancy to go with 
him. Soames and Daggett went off to explore 
back of the hut, leaving Sherwood and Dick to 
take the woods to the eastward. 

The latter were scarcely out of earshot, when 
Warrender caught his friend by one arm. 

"Say, Kent," he burst out in a low, anxious 
tone. "Those papers about the — ^the emerald. 
You — saved them, didn't you?" 

Sherwood laughed. "I certainly did. That 



210 The Emerald Buddha 

was the first thing I thought of when the crash 
came this morning. They're safe in my inside 
pocket. Have you been worrying?" 

"You bet I have!'* returned the boy with a 
deep sigh of relief. "In the excitement of get- 
ting away and everything, I clean forgot the 
things until you began to talk about pearls. 
Ever since then Fve been fretting like the dick- 
ens and trying to get a chance to talk to you 
alone. Well, I'm mighty glad that's all right, 
though it looks as if our chances of ever seeing 
Borneo were rather slim." 

Sherwood shrugged his shoulders. "You 
can't ever tell what will happen," he said ab- 
sently. "Come ahead into the woods. I've 
got something interesting to show you." 




CHAPTER XX 



TROUBLE BREWING 



Kent said nothing more until they were well 
within the shelter of the trees. Then, with a 
searching glance around, he drew from his 
pocket a small, paper-covered note book, the 
outside much stained and worn. 

''Found it in that rubbish this morning," he 
explained briefly, flicking over the pages. "I 
only got a glimpse, but it looked like — " 

His voice trailed away into silence and a fur- 
row dodged into his smooth forehead as his 
eyes travelled swiftly down the closely written 
pages. Suddenly he looked up at the boy, his 
expression an odd mingling of perplexity and 
excitement. 

"It's a record of the pearl fishery," he said in 
a low tone. "Loolf here." 

Dick took the book eagerly and stared at the 

211 



212 The Emerald Buddha 

open page. The faded writing was stiff and 

labored, though legible enough — ^the careful 

writing of a man of action unused to the pen. 

Opposite certain dates were brief entries of 

which the boy could make nothing. 

"Nov. 17th," he read. "Three white— 17, 

21, 26 grs. Nov. 20th, one white — ^46 grs. 

Dec. 2nd. Four white — 11, 19, 22, 34 grs. 

One Pink— 188 grs/' 
The latter was deeply underscored. Dick 

glanced up questioningly. 

Don't you understand?" Sherwood asked. 

It's the number of pearls found on those dates 

with their weights. Imagine a pink pearl of 

188 grains! Why, it would be worth — ^well, I 

don't know how many thousand dollars." He 

took the book and glanced through it again. 

"And there are four or five pages of entries. 

At that rate they must have taken a fortune out 

of the lagoon." 

"But what happened to them all? Who 
were the people who found them, and how — '* 

"By Jove!" broke in Sherwood excitedly. 






Trouble Brewing 213 

He was staring at a page in the front of the 
book which had escaped his notice. "Hanged 
if I don't believe I've got a clue. Listen to 
this. It's a rough statement of partnership in 
pearl fishing signed by four men. Captain Jed 
Quinlan has a half interest by virtue of dis- 
:overer. Joe Dobbs, H. Woldring and Thomas 
Mogridge divide the other half equally. It's 
dollars to doughnuts, Kid, that poor cuss we 
found back there was Quinlan." 

"You mean the others wanted more than 
their share, and — " 

"Exactly. If they were an)rthing like the 
average derelict you find beach-combing around 
the South Seas, that's precisely what they 
would want, and they'd not be troubled 
by any scruples as to how they got it. Do you 
suppose that bruiser, Midkiflf, for instance, 
would hesitate to knock either of us on the head 
for the value of even one of the pearls noted 
down in this book? Of course not! That's 
why I kept the thing hidden. The whole bunch 
is worked up enough now. They'd go entirely 



214 The Emerald Buddha 

off their heads if they had any idea of the real 
value of the stuff they've missed," 

"You think those three got away with the 
pearls, then ? " asked Dick. 

"Doesn't it seem likely? If they hadn't, 
they'd be here yet. What surprises me is their 
abandoning the fishery. They might easily 
have hidden all evidence of the crime and laid 
the captain's death to natural causes if any 
question ever arose. But I suppose they got 
cold feet and beat it." 

Warrender reached out absently and plucked 
a scarlet hibiscus blossom from a mass of them 
which grew beside him. There was a shivery 
allurement in the vision Sherwood had conjured 
up of lawlessness and sudden death — and 
pearls." 

"What — what are you going to do?" he 
asked presently. 

"Nothing, just now," answered Kent. "I 
may be a fool to pass up such a chance as this 
lagoon might prove to be, but excuse me from 



Trouble Brewing 215 

going into partnership with a bunch like Mid- 
kiff and those other two. Daggett isn't so bad, 
though there's no telling what a man will do 
when he's gripped by the lust for treasure. 
Believe me, I don't hanker after Captain Quin- 
lan's fate. Besides, we've got something else 
on our hands that's a lot more interesting than 
fishing up pearl oysters, fascinating as that 
may be. The best plan will be to hide this 
book and say nothing about it to anyone. I 
shouldn't be at all surprised, by the way, if Mid- 
kiff and Clancy were searching the lagoon for 
oyster beds this very minute." 

His guess proved to have hit the mark ac- 
curately. After burying the note book at the 
base of a towering palm, the two pushed on 
through the woods. In the short space of an 
hour they located a dozen different varieties of 
tropical fruit, and saw a number of birds, 
chiefly big white cockatoos, flitting through the 
tree tops. Returning, loaded down with or- 
anges and paw-paws, they found Soames and 



2i6 The Emerald Buddha 

Daggett on the beach, and observed the boat 
moving slowly about the upper end of the la- 
goon. 

Another hour passed before this headed back 
to the camp, and the half-dozen fish brought in 
by Midkiff and Clancy, though ample for sup- 
per, scarcely accounted for the prolonged de- 
lay. Neither of the men made any explana- 
tion, but Sherwood noticed a certain restless 
preoccupation about them which seemed sig- 
nificant. Immediately after supper they went 
off toward the shed containing the oyster shell, 
calling Soames to join them. 

What they found there was not apparent un- 
til next morning. They had one of the lan- 
terns which, with a nearly full can of oil, had 
been part of the salvage of the hut, and for over 
two hours its yellow light glowed steadily 
through the open door of the shed. It was 
still burning when the other three turned in. 

In spite of a certain vague uneasiness, Sher- 
wood slept like a log that night. He was the 
first to awake, and having aroused Dick, they 



Trouble Brewing 217 

stripped and went down to take a plunge into 
the crystal waters of the lagoon. On the way 
back they paused besides the boat. 

"I thought so/' commented Sherwood, glanc- 
ing inside it. "They've found a couple of 
drags, and Til bet they mean to go after oysters 
as soon as they've finished breakfast." 

He said nothing of the discovery, but when 
the meal was over and the three men prepared 
to launch the boat, he remarked casually that 
while they were gone, Daggett, Dick and him- 
self might better occupy themselves in gather- 
ing dead wood and brush for a signal fire. In- 
stantly Midkiff straightened up and glared at 
him. 

"What d'you want that for ? " he growled. 

"Why, to light in case we see a passing ship," 
returned Sherwood. "Naturally we don't want 
to miss a chance of being taken off." 

"We don't, eh ? " The fellow's eyes flashed 
angrily. "Lemme tell you somethin'. You've 
been shootin' off a lot of hot air around here, 
but from now on I'm boss — see?" With a 



2i8 The Emerald Buddha 

swift motion he jerked from his pocket a dingy 
but serviceable revolver of large calibre and 
held it in one hand. "What I say goes ; and I 
ain't goin' to have no fire built to bring folks 
pokin' around these diggings. You get me?'' 

White with rage, Sherwood faced him for 
an instant in furious silence. Then he got a 
grip on himself and turned away with a care- 
less shrug. 

"Oh, very well," he commented. "If that's 
the way you feel about it, there's nothing more 
to be said, I suppose." 

"It is the way I feel, an' so does the rest of 
us," snarled Midkiff. "Joe Daggett, you stick 
around here while we're gone, an' if these guys 
start anything, you wave a bit of canvas or 
somethin', an' we'll come back an' settle 'em 
mighty quick." 

He pocketed the revolver, shoved off the boat 
with a heave of his mighty shoulder and stepped 
in, Soames and Clancy following him. Sher- 
wood stood motionless until they were a hun- 



Trouble Brewing 219 

dred yards or so distant; then he turned to 
Daggett. 

"How does he get that way?" he snapped 
curtly. 

Daggett looked at him appealingly with eyes 
that were wide and scared. "I — I 'ope you're 
not blaming me, sir?" he quavered. "I don't 
know what's got into him. He always was a 
bit rough, but since last night he's had a way 
about him that makes me fair nervous." 

For a moment or so Kent stood silent, strug- 
gling to overcome his anger. Then his face 
cleared a little and he shrugged his shoulders. 

"He's got the pearl fever," he said briefly. 
"No telling what that will do to a man." 

The steward gasped. "My gracious, sir! 
You don't mean as 'ow they've gone an' found 
them pearls?" 

"They've found the oyster beds those came 
from, and it's pretty evident they mean to keep 
their discovery to themselves. I wish I knew 
where he got that gun." 



220 The Emerald Buddha 



it 



It was in the shack, sir/' explained Daggett. 

I seen him pick it up out of a corner, an' some 
cartridges, too. He must have spent a pretty 
time cleanin' the rust off." 

Sherwood bit his lips in annoyance. Mid- 
kiff had certainly put one over on him there, 
perhaps at that very moment, too, when he 
himself was engaged in secreting the notebook. 
But there was no use wasting time in vain re- 
grets. The thing to do was to plan out some 
counterstroke, and while they pottered about 
in the neighborhood of the shack that morning, 
Kent's mind was busy. 

Midkiff and the others failed to return at 
noon, and after dinner the two escaped from 
Daggett on the plea of gathering fruit for sup- 
per, and went off together into the woods. 

"On an island there are quite a number of 
places to build a signal fire," remarked Sher- 
wood as they pushed through the undergrowth. 
"I'd rather have had it near the hut, but any 
other place will do nearly as well." 

Crossing directly to the other side of the reef. 



Trouble Brewing 221 

which at this point was about a quarter of a 
mile wide, they spent a couple of hours gather- 
ing dead wood and stacking it in a great pile 
at a spot where it would be visible from the 
sea, but hidden by undergrowth from anyone 
passing along the beach. This done, they 
strolled further along the hard, sandy stretch, 
discussing the situation which had developed. 

"There's no dodging the fact that it's pretty 
serious," said Sherwood. "Midkiff isn't the 
sort to stop at an)rthing, and at any time he's 
quite likely to decide that even our passive 
presence on the island is undesirable. Luck- 
ily they're none of them the type to successfully 
hide what's on their minds, and I think by close 
watching we can tell whether or not they're 
planning anything dirty. But it means keeping 
our eyes open every minute. What the deuce 
is that in there ? It looks like a pond." 

They were walking well up on the beach and 
as he spoke Sherwood turned sharply to the 
left and, parting the bushes revealed a tiny 
pool scarcely a dozen yards across. It must 



222 Tlie Emerald Buddha 

have been fed by some hidden spring, for not a 
breath disturbed its glassy surface nor stirred 
the foliage of the dense, tropical growth which 
hung over it on every side, turning it into a 
sable mirror. 

The shadows, the stillness, the dank, acrid 
odor of rotting vegetation, combined to make 
a dreary, depressing atmosphere that was al- 
most sinister. To Warrender it seemed an 
ideal lair for snakes or almost any sort of 
noisome reptile, and his eyes were roving ner- 
vously about when of a sudden he caught his 
breath and gave a sharp, involuntary cry. 

At his feet, half hidden by vines and creep- 
ing vegetation, the body of a man sprawled, 
face downward ! 



CHAPTER XXI 

THE POISONED PEARLS 

Slowly the moments ticked away as the two 
stood motionless, staring down with startled, 
questioning eyes. Presently Sherwood took a 
step or two forward and bending over, tore 
away a portion of the clustering growth. As 
he did so Dick shivered and bit his lips, for 
the movement revealed the glimmer of a 
bleached skull and uncovered a bony hand 
thrust forward from the sleeve of a faded 
flannel shirt. 

"Great Scott!" gasped Kent. "Another 
one!" 

Reluctantly, he thrust out one foot and 
turned the body over. There was an unpleas- 
ant rattle of dry bones as the thing collapsed 
horribly into a shapeless heap. Sherwood's 

face crinkled with disgust, and he was turning 

223 



224 The Emerald Buddha 

hastily away when he caught sight of a small, 
flat object lying on the ground. 

"Let's get out of this," he said briefly, pick- 
ing it up. 

Out on the beach, with the pungent salt air 
fresh in their nostrils and the brilliant sunshine 
gleaming from sea and sand, they quickly re- 
covered their composure. 

"What on earth — " began Dick. 

"Don't ask me/' interrupted Sherwood, turn- 
ing the small, square object over in his hands. 
"It's got my goat. Pretty soon we'll be afraid 
to stir for fear or stepping on bones or some 
other horror." 

What he had found proved to be a wallet 
roughly made of tough, heavy leather com- 
pletely hardened by exposure. Kent managed 
to loosen the flap, however, and found it empty 
save for a folded sheet of paper closely covered 
with faded writing. Too impatient to wait, 
Dick peered around his cousin's shoulder and 
together they deciphered the surprising docu- 
ment. 



The Poisoned Pearls 225 

The date it bore was nearly nine years ear- 
lier; the handwriting was unmistakably that 
of the unknown Captain Quinlan. 

"There's deviltry afoot, Meadows," it be- 
gan abruptly. "The men have been up to 
some mischief since you left in the bark for 
Manila. It's my opinion the dirty scoundrels 
are not content with a fair division of the 
pearls, but want them all, and Fm worried sick. 
I'm taking every care, but with three against 
one there's bound to be a slip-up some time or 
other. Yesterday I managed to slip away from 
them at the fishery and took the box and hid it. 
You remember that rummy black pool ? About 
a hundred yards due east and not more than a 
dozen paces from the outer beach, is a group of 
three big Sago palms growing in a sort of tri- 
angle. The box is buried in the middle and 
I'm going to hide this paper in a place known 
only to us two. According to our agreement 
half of my share belongs to you. If those dev- 
ils should get the best of me, you're to have the 



226 The Emerald Buddha 

rest, and take their's, too, for they'll have for- 
feited every right to them. But note this spe- 
cial, mate. When you come to dig up the box 
remember well what we learned in the Dyak 
village in Borneo three years back. There's 
just a chance they may find this paper, but if 
they do you'll understand when I say they'll 
wish to God they'd never seen those pearls if 
they so much as lay a finger on one of them. 

"Jed Quinlan." 

Sherwood lowered the paper and the two 
stared at one another. 

"What the dickens do you suppose that 
means ? " pondered Warrender. "It sounds — 
queer." 

"It does," promptly agreed Sherwood. 
"It's like some kind of a hidden threat. This 
Meadows must have been another partner in 
the business whose job may have been to bring 
supplies and all that from the Philippines." 

"i wonder if that — was he back there ? " 

For a moment or two Kent did not answer. 



The Poisoned Pearls 227 

Then, with an impatient frown, he thrust the 
paper into his pocket and wheeled around. 

"It might have been," he said briefly. "I 
tell you one thing, Dick ; Fm dead sick of won- 
dering and guessing and feeling about in the 
dark for explanations. There's just one solid 
fact in all this mystery that we can grab hold 
of. The place where he hid those pearls isn't 
more than five minutes' walk from here, and Vm 
mighty curious to take a look at it. If they're 
gone, as I suppose they must be, nothing else 
really matters, does it ?" 

Without further delay they returned to the 
pool and shaping their course with a tiny com- 
pass Sherwood carried on his watch strap, 
pushed eastward through the woods, counting 
their paces. But even that was scarcely neces- 
sary. They had covered little more than two- 
thirds the distance when they glimpsed the 
thick trunks of the three sago palms growing 
close together, and with a shout of satisfaction, 
Kent broke into a run. A moment later they 
reached their goal and halted abruptly. 



228 The Emerald Buddha 

They were prepared for almost anything 
save what they found. Between the three 
palms was a rough hollow a couple of feet deep 
and double that across. Time had obliterated 
all signs of digging, but a rusted spade leaned 
against one of the trees, while on the edge of 
the hollow rested a heavy, iron-bound box some 
fourteen inches square. It was shut, and be- 
side it, one bony arm stretched out as if to lift 
the cover, lay a skeleton partly covered with 
ragged remnants of rotting clothing. Not far 
away, huddled against a tree trunk in a strange, 
distorted posture, was another. 

Moment after moment passed and the silence 
brooding over that shadowy glade remained un- 
broken. A cold chill crept along Dick's spine 
as he stared first at the mouldering bodies and 
then at that iron-bound box. Were the pearls 
still there? He longed to rush forward and 
fling back the lid, but somehow he dared not. 
He was afraid, for into his mind had come the 
fantastic notion that death — ^the sudden mys- 
terious death which had stricken these two and 



The Poisoned Pearls 229 

perhaps that other by the black pool yonder — 
lurked under the closed cover. He tried to 
speak, to ask a question, but his tongue seemed 
glued to the roof of his mouth and the words 
refused to come. 

Then all at once the spell was broken. A 
great, white cockatoo flew over them, screaming 
raucously. An instant later another sound 
came from the direction of the nearby beach — 
a guarded, panting, insistent voice calling end- 
lessly : 

"Mr. Sherwood! Mr. Sherwood! Mr. 
Sherwood !'' 

Kent gave a start and turned his head. "It's 
Daggett ! " he exclaimed. "He sounds — 
Something must be the matter. Come ahead." 

As they burst out onto the beach they saw the 
steward running toward them across the sand. 
He was bareheaded, thin hair plastered down 
against his forehead in moist, matted tangles. 
His face was pale, and twisted with fear and 
anguish. Catching sight of them, a sobbing 
gasp of relief burst from his thin lips. 



230 The Emerald Buddha 

"Thank 'eaven Pve found you, sir!" he 
panted, his weak mouth working. "The men's 
gone mad, I think. They're back this half 
hour. I was asleep in the shade back of the 
house and heard them planning to — ^to kill us 
all. They thought as we had gone off together, 
sir, and plotted to get us as we come back. . . . 
*And Daggett, too,' says Soames. 'Yes,' says 
Midkiff, 'better make a clean job of it.' It 
seems they've found pearls an' don't want to 
share 'em. . . . An' after all I've done for 
them with victuals and everything! It's ter- 
rible, sir ! " He wrung his hands distractedly. 
"I slipped away and ran through the woods to 
the beach where I found your tracks. What- 
ever will we do? They've got the gun, and 
we've nothing. They'll find us sooner or later, 
and — " He darted a frightened glance over 
one shoulder and his voice rose in a shrill 
stifled shriek. "Oh, my Lord, sir! There 
they come ! " 

But Sherwood had already spied them, just 
emerging from the trees a quarter of a mile be- 



The Poisoned Pearls 231 

yond Without an instant's hesitation he 
shoved Warrender back into the bushes and 
grasping the panic-stricken steward by one arm, 
dragged him under cover. But swift as his 
action was it proved of no avail. A distant, 
ringing shout heralded their discovery, and 
Sherwood's lips tightened at the realization that 
the chase had begun. 

The sight pf those mouldering bodies under 
the palms wrung from Daggett a shrill squeal 
of fright, but did not halt his flying feet. 
Darting past the hollow, Dick cast behind him 
a fleeting glance of longing and regret. If 
only there had been time to snatch up the box 
and carry it along ! But he knew there wasn't, 
and a moment later the heavy, tropic growth 
dosed behind him, blotting out the glade com- 
pletely. 

A little further on Sherwood, realizing that 
their noisy progress must inevitably betray 
them, slowed down and proceeded in cautious 
silence. Presently he stopped altogether and 
turning his head, stood listening. A sudden 



232 The Emerald Buddha 

concerted shout came clearly to their ears fol- 
lowed by a brief silence and then another, 
louder yell. 

"The pearls were there," thought Dick bit- 
terly. "They Ve found them." 

Two minutes passed — ^three — ^five, and the 
stillness remained unbroken. Suddenly Sher- 
wood spoke. 

"I can't stand not knowing," he whispered. 
"If the pearls are in that box they won't give 
us another thought. If not, they'd have come 
on long ago. I'm going to slip back and take 
a look. You two wait here." 

Quietly, stealthily, he made his way slowly 
back along their trail. Nearing the three sago 
t)alms, he was aware of an intermitten mumble 
of conversation punctuated by occasional 
shriller exclamations of delight and greed. 

"Look a' that pink 'un ! " he finally heard 
Midkiff cry. "Ain't that a beauty? That's 
goin' to be part of my share, all right." 

"Like fun it will ! " rasped Clancy. "Don't 
you think you're going to pick out all the good 



The Poisoned Pearls 233 

ones. Hang it ! I Ve run another thorn in my 
finger/' 

Sherwood thrilled with a sudden, desperate 
hope. He had heard tales of lawless men 
fighting over their spoils and even killing one 
another off. Softly he stole nearer and at 
last ventured to part a final curtain of flower- 
covered vines and peered out into the glade. 

The box was open and as he looked Midkiff, 
kneeling beside it, lifted up both hairy hands 
and through his fingers there dripped a stream 
of pearly drops, so full of softly sheening love- 
liness that the watcher fairly caught his breath 
in wonder. 

"Not take my pick, eh ? " growled the fellow 
hoarsely. "Who's to stop me, Clancy ? I arsk 
you that? Who's to — Curse it all! there's 
another of them blarsted thorns. The place is 
full of 'em." 

There was no answer, and as Midkiff 
plucked pettishly at one thick thiunb, Sher- 
wood's curious glance sought the other two men 
who were so strangely silent. They crouched 



234 The Emerald Buddha 

on the further side of the box of pearls. 
Soames' back was toward him, but he could see 
Clancy's face distinctly. It was drawn, sweat- 
dabbled and deathly pale, and there was a look 
of anguish in the staring eyes that sent a thrill 
of horror through the watcher. 

Suddenly, with a strangled, inartictilate cry, 
the fellow lifted both hands stiffly and tore at 
the open collar of his shirt. At almost the 
same instant Soames groaned horribly and top- 
pled forward, his arms falling across the top 
of the iron-bound box. Midkiff sprang up with 
an oath. 

"Get out of here, you scum ! " he snarled 
thickly. "Don't you think you're going to get 
away with — " 

His voice died in a choking gurgle. For a 
long moment he stood motionless, straddling the 
box like some colossus made of stone. 
His eyes, wide with fear and growing horror, 
were fixed on Clancy, who had fallen back 
against one of the palms and lay still, save for 
a dreadful twitching of his body. They 



The Poisoned Pearls 235 

shifted for an instant to Soames, a silent, 
crumpled heap, one swollen, purple hand rest- 
ing on the corner of the casket. And then 
slowly, almost reluctantly, he lifted one big 
hand and stared vacantly at the ball of hiis 
thumb. Suddenly his voice rang furiously 
through the silent glade. 

"No! No! Nor' 

Flinging both arms above his head, he 
stumbled out of the hollow, staggered blindly 
forward a few paces, and then crashed face 
downward into the undergrowth. 



CHAPTER XXII 

THE HALF-BREED, GARCIA 

With an effort Sherwcx)d loosened his spas- 
modic grip on the hanging vine and slowly- 
moved away. ... A crushed, white, sweetly- 
scented blossom fell unheeded from his cramped 
fingers. ... He felt deathly sick, and his 
whole body was bathed in a cold sweat. 

Warrender and Daggett both cried out at the 
sight of his white face, but he would say noth- 
ing until they had pushed on through the woods 
and gained the sunlit border of the lagoon. 
And there he told them briefly what had passed. 

"It must have been Dyak poison — ^the sort 

they use in their blow-gun darts," he concluded. 

"It acts instantly and there's no known cure. 

That's what Quinlan meant in his letter, of 

course. Both Midkiff and Clancy spoke of 

thorns — Those slim ones on certain sorts of 

236 



The Half 'Breed, Garcia 237 

cacti would scarcely be noticed. Quinlan must 
have smeared the poison on a lot of them and 
sifted them into the box along with the pearls." 

He shuddered, and for a space no one spoke. 
Daggett's face, though solemn, wore a furtive, 
underlying expression of relief. Not having 
been an eye-witness to the tragedy, Dick could 
scarcely be expected to share his friend's hor- 
ror, and was busily engaged in piecing things 
together. 

"That one by the pool couldn't have been 
Meadows after all," he said presently. "I sup- 
pose he was one of the other three." 

"He must have been," agreed Sherwood ab- 
sently. "Though how he managed to get even 
that far is more than I can understand. Those 
fellows must have found the paper in spite of 
Quinlan's precautions, and never given a 
thought to the veiled warning at the end. 
Meadows couldn't have returned to the island 
at all. I dare say his ship was wrecked or 
foundered at sea." 

Dick sighed. "It seems a shame to leave 



238 The Emerald Buddha 

those pearls there," he said regretfully, "You 
don't suppose there's any way — " 

"Not all the pearls in the Pacific would tempt 
me to go near that place again," Sherwood in- 
terrupted forcibly. "By this time a lot of those 
thorns must be scattered about outside the box 
and you couldn't possibly see them. I'd as soon 
walk into a den of cobras. If you'd only 



seen — " 



He broke off with a shiver, and turned west- 
ward along the curving beach. "Let's go back 
to camp and talk over what we mean to do," 
he added. "This place has got so on my nerves, 
I'd almost be willing to put off in the boat and 
take a chance of being picked up." 

As a matter of fact this was what finally hap- 
pened. Sherwood's repugnance for the island 
swiftly communicated itself to the other two. 
The lovely, smiling atoll became suddenly in- 
vested with an atmosphere of horror. It was 
as if the spirits of the evil dead had returned, 
ghostlike, to haunt the innocent survivors. 
The hut, crowded with unpleasant memories 



The Half 'Breed, Garcia 239 

and sinister suggestions, became untenable. 
They moved to the open beach, camping under 
strips of sail cloth, and never entered the woods 
unless forced to in search of food. Indeed, the 
place soon became so intolerable that they were 
willing to risk almost an)rthing to escape from 
it. So finally, the boat was carefully over- 
hauled, provisioned and watered to the best 
of their ability, and early one morning they 
hoisted sail and tacked boldly out of the lagoon 
into the open sea. 

Fate sometimes plays strange pranks. Not 
two hours later they sighted a small steamer, 
signalled her and were presently overhauled 
and taken on board. She proved to be a tramp 
bound for Singapore, and her slovenly deck and 
nondescript native crew were more welcome in 
the eyes of the castaways than the most pala- 
tial liner. The trip was calm and uneventful, 
and when they landed a week later in that 
populous Eastern city, its narrow streets 
crowded with a noisy, cosmopolitan throng, 
the weird horrors of those strange island hap- 



240 The Emerald Buddha 

penings faded swiftly like the fleeting figments 
of some hateful dream. 

Daggett philosophically set about looking for 
another berth, and soon landed one on a vessel 
bound for Madagascar and the Cape. It was 
nearly two weeks after his sailing before Sher- 
wood and Warrender left the harbor in the 
trim, up-to-date steamer Panapa, plying be- 
tween Singapore and Melbourne, via Borneo, 
Celebes and New Guinea. 

The delay enabled Kent to collect an excel- 
lent and extensive equipment, for which, when 
they landed at Labuan, he was more than 
thankful, the stock offered by the settlement 
stores proving limited and expensive. Taking 
rooms at the only decent hotel, Sherwood set 
about at once engaging guides, porters, cooks 
and the remaining personnel necessary for the 
expedition. 

Just as in China, to avoid awkward ques- 
tions, he had posed as a buyer of antiques, so 
now he gave out that they were American 
sportsmen seeking some of the big game which 



The Half 'Breed, Garcia 241 

abounds in the interior of Borneo. He early 
made the acquaintance of the British resident, 
who advised him to look up one Manuel Garcia, 
a Spanish half-breed, whose extensive ac- 
quaintance amongst the natives enabled him to 
pick the best for his frequent up-country expe- 
ditions. 

When the fellow appeared at the hotel for 
an interview, Kent did not altogether fancy 
him. He was lean, lithe and very dark, with a 
narrow face and brilliant eyes which seemed to 
be never still. His manner was suave, with a 
touch of smooth oiliness, but he certainly knew 
his business. Within twenty-four hours he 
had collected a complete complement of men, 
and Sherwood, who had a distinct talent for 
judging human nature, was forced to admit that 
he had never seen a finer, or more competent 
looking lot. He was particularly struck by the 
head guide, Sarak, a Malay of the finest type, 
whose splendid physical perfection was accom- 
panied by a candid, straightforward expres- 
sion which made Kent feel instinctively that he 



242 The Emerald Buddha 

could be trusted Indeed, he was afterward 
wont to contend that it was Sarak who turned 
the scale and decided him to engage the whole 
party, Garcia included. 

Another day was necessary for preparation, 
but early the following morning they all em- 
barked on a commodious lavmch chartered by 
Sherwood, steamed across Brunei Bay, and en- 
tered the mouth of the Limbang River. 

Long before this, of course, the papers re- 
lating to the whereabouts of the Emerald 
Buddha had been carefully studied by both 
Kent and his young cousin. The older one, 
written in ancient characters and nearly fall- 
ing to pieces with age, was quite undecipher- 
able. But fortunately a later copy had been 
made, which, together with the account of that 
much more recent visit to the ruined city, gave 
them a clear and definite idea of the early 
stages of the journey. 

After leaving the river, however, the direc- 
tions would be much harder to follow. The 
way led through a trackless jungle, across 



The Half 'Breed, Garcia 243 

a mountain spur of considerable height and 
ended in a mountainous plateau nearly three 
hundred miles from the coast. In a country 
where a few years of riotous tropic growth fre- 
quently wipes out all traces of an entire set- 
tlement, Sherwood felt sure that many of the 
landmarks referred to by the follower of 
Vishnu, who. had travelled the route some 
thirty years before, would have completely 
vanished. 

"Luckily he used the compass to give general 
directions," Kent remarked, as they sat discuss- 
ing the matter during the leisurely progress of 
the launch up river. "And once we get within 
fifty miles or so of the place I can't believe but 
what we'll pick up some information from the 
natives. The very fact that they shun the 
place shows that they must have a pretty good 
idea where it is." 



CHAPTER XXIII 

INTO THE JUNGLE 

But though Kent's reasoning seemed good, 
he had failed to take into account the strength 
and subtilty of the Malay superstitions. As 
a matter of fact the natives not only avoided the 
ruined city as they would the plague, but be- 
lieved that the mere mention of it in conversa- 
tion would bring much evil fortune upon their 
heads. They were so stubborn on this point, 
indeed, that the whole expedition might have 
failed save for the lucky chance whereby Sher- 
wood, at the risk of his own life, saved Sarak 
from a horrible death under the crushing feet 
of a maddened bull elephant. 

It was but one of the many exciting incidents 
which crowded over six weeks of slow, toilsome 



Into the Jungle 245 

their directions broke down utterly and they 
found themselves stranded without an idea of 
which way to turn, Sarak was the one who 
saved the expedition, at a c;ost to his own peace 
of mind which none save those of his own race 
could comprehend. 

This stroke of fortune came as a climax of 
several days of black despair when the two 
Americans had almost given up hope. Sarak 
had been appealed to before without success; 
so had every other man in the outfit. Even 
Garcia was sounded, though Sherwood had not 
intended to give him any hint as to the real ob- 
ject of the expedition, and even then made no 
mention of the emerald. But apparently not 
one of them had ever heard of the ruined tem- 
ple, much less knew anything of its location, 
and when Dick Warrender heard the good news 
it seemed too wonderful to be true. 

It happened one day when the little camp lay 
silent in the stifling embrace of noonday heat. 
Searching for Sherwood, whom he had missed, 
Dick came on him unexpectedly under the 



246 The Emerald Buddha 

shade of a giant teak a little way from camp in 
close conversation with Sarak. His face was 
all aglow with excitement, and as the boy ap- 
peared around a mass of trailing vines, Kent 
beckoned hastily. 

"The most corking news, old man ! '* he ex- 
claimed joyfully as Dick came up. "Sarak 
does know about the Buddha after all- He's 
actually seen it ! " 

"What ! " gasped Warrender. "You don't 
mean it, really ? " 

Sherwood nodded. "I had a sneaking idea 
he knew something, and just now I went for 
him again. Told him what we were up against 
and that the whole business would be off unless 
he could help us find the place. He's a dandy 
fellow, all right. I could see he hated even 
talking about it, but after a while he loosened 
up and told me the whole story. You know 
how the natives all feel about it. Sarak admits 
he'd never in the world have dared to hunt up 
the place deliberately. He stumbled on the 
ruined shrine over a year ago when he was up 



^i 




Into the Jungle 247 

this way, and I guess he beat it as quickly as he 
could. But he says the emerald is still there, 
and the place isn't more than three or four days* 
tramp from this very spot." 

"Oh, boy ! " exclaimed Warrender jubilantly. 
"And will he take us there? " 

"I think sOj though he's just now been beg- 
ging me not to go near it. Like all of them he 
believes those ruins are haunted by evil spirits, 
and he tells me he knows for a fact that anyone 
so much as touching the Buddha will meet with 
an instant and horrible death." 

Dick glanced at the Malay squatting close by 
and surprised on his usually impassive face a 
strained and frightened look. And suddenly a 
queer, tingling thrill shot through him and a 
touch of red darkened his tanned face. 

Familiar as he had been for so long a time 
with the story of the Emerald Buddha, this was 
the first moment that his imagination had been 
able to picture it as a real and concrete thing. 
His gaze left the Malay's face and swept over 
the close-set, .serried ranks of teak and iron 



248 The Emerald Buddha 

wood and tapan, bound together by rattan and 
other ropelike vines into a dense, impenetrable 
screen which for weeks had kept them in a 
perpetual twilight. A moment before this had 
been merely a disagreeable obstacle to progress. 
Now the boy quaintly likened it to a sort of 
drop-curtain which would presently rise, reveal- 
ing the long sought object of their quest. 

"Did— did Sarak really see the emerald — 
close ? " he asked breathlessly. 

"Close enough. He says it's about as big as 
a hen's tgg. I can't get him to describe the 
Buddha, which they seem to look on as a sort 
of presiding devil of the place, but — " 

He broke off abruptly and turning his head 
swiftly to one side, sat listening. All about 
them pressed the. stifling noonday stillness of 
the jungle. The gaudy parrots had ceased 
their raucous Sittings in the tree-tops; the 
chattering monkeys had departed. Every 
member of the outfit, apparently, except them- 
selves, lay asleep in the little camp beyond the 



Into the Jungle 249 

screen of trailing vines. Dick was not con- 
scious of a sound, and yet an instant later 
Sarak sprang up and glided noiselessly into a 
thicket behind the teak tree, closely followed 
by Sherwood. The latter reappeared a mo- 
ment later and swiftly crossed the glade to- 
ward the camp. 

"What is it ? " whispered Dick. 

Kent shook his head and motioned the boy to 
follow. Together they pushed through the 
vines and paused on the edge of the wide clear- 
ing which had been hacked out of the jungle. 

Two tents stood there and a number of flimsy 
native huts thatched with palm leaves that 
housed the natives. The only person in sight 
was Garcia, clad in shirt and trousers of dirty 
white, who was engaged in lighting a cigarette 
with an ember from the fire smouldering in the 
middle of the clearing. As he glanced up at 
the cousins without altering his stooping posi- 
tion, his expression struck Dick as oddly and 
unpleasantly sinister. An instant later he 



250 The Emerald Buddha 

straightened and the impression was gone. 
Yawning elaborately, he lounged toward them, 
his white teeth showing in a smile. 

"The senors do not take their siesta?" he 
drawled. 

"As you see," returned Kent briefly. "And 
you ?" 

The fellow shrugged. '*Oh, I have finish. 
I jus' come forth from zee tent for to smoke." 

Sherwood eyed him intently for a moment. 
"That being the case, we may as well arrange 
for a shift," he said quietly. "The hunting 
around here hasn't been much good for the last 
day or two, and I want to move on to-morrow. 
You'd better get as much of the lu^age as pos- 
sible packed up this afternoon so we can make 
an early start." 

There were no signs of surprise in Garcia's 
smiling acquiescence. "It shall be done," he 
stated smoothly. "An' where does the senor 
t'ink of going?" 

"I haven't decided yet," returned Kent 



Into the Jungle 251 

A few words more passed relative to the lug- 
gage. Then Garcia returned to the smaller of 
the two tents, "while the cousins strolled off in a 
careless fashion through the jungle. 

"Do you think he heard?" asked Dick in a 
low tone, when they were out of earshot. 

"Fm almost certain of it." Sherwood's tone 
was vexed and his brow furrowed. "I hoped 
we'd catch him, bijt he was too quick for us. 
Certainly someone was hiding in that thicket 
just behind us ; Sarak and I both saw the traces 
at once. And if it wasn't Garcia, who was it ?" 

*'I never could stand that fellow !" Dick said 
emphatically. "He's much too smooth and oily 
to suit me. If he knows what we're after, 
what's to prevent his turning the whole bunch 
of natives against us, and swiping the emerald 
himself?" 

"Sarak." 

Dick stared. "I know he's to b^e depended 
on, but could he do anything with the others? 
Garcia hired them all, you know." 

"I know, but Sarak happens to have more in- 



252 The Emerald Buddha 

fluence with the gang than even Garcia. It 
seems he's the son of their old chief, thougfa I 
didn't know it 'till we were having this heart to 
heart talk just now, and I'd back him to block 
any deviltry Garcia may try to put over with' 
the men. All the same, I'd much rather he 
hadn't got wise to this business. He's much 
too handy with a kris to make him a pleasant 
person to be up against." 

Absently Dick's eyes followed the lazy flight 
of a huge crimson butterfly which made a spot 
of moving flame against the dark background 
of the jungle. 

"It's up to us to keep a pretty sharp watch 
on the fellow, then," he remarked. 

Sherwood smiled reassuringly. "That's the 
idea," he nodded. "After all, we're three to 
one, and that ought to be good enough odds for 
anybody." 



CHAPTER XXIV 



FOREBODINGS 



They were up at dawn next morning, and 
little more than an hour later the tents were 
packed and a string of porters, shouldering lug- 
gage and camp equipment, began their slow 
progress through the jungle. 

Four Malays under Sherwood's direction, 
armed with axes and long, heavy-bladed knives, 
went ahead to slash a way through the dense 
thickets and entangling vines. Sarak was with 
them, while Dick, keyed up and restless, moved 
back and forth along the straggling line, some- 
times chatting with his cousin, but more often 
lingering near Garcia, who kept mostly with the 
porters. 

If the half-breed knew as much about their 
plans as they suspected, he was an artist in de- 
ception. Even Dick, watchful as he was, could 

find nothing in his manner or conversation to 

253 



254 The Emerald Buddha 

take hold of. He chatted casually and natur- 
ally, yelled at the porters, joked, laughed and 
even asked about their destination which, unless 
he was very subtle, was a subject the ordinary 
plotter would be much more likely to avoid. 

"He's slick, all right," remarked the boy to 
Sherwood, during one of the brief halts. "He 
hasn't given himself away a particle." 

"I didn't expect he would," shrugged Kent. 
"He's not the sort you catch napping." 

They camped that evening on the bank of a 
small river, and during the night one of the 
three was always on watch. But nothing un- 
usual happened. Apparently Garcia did not 
open an eye until morning. The second day 
was a repetition of the first except that the half- 
breed seemed to have rather more than usual 
to say to the natives. Unfortunately Dick did 
not understand the language. It might have 
been merely idle chatter, but several times he 
seemed to sense a note of seriousness in Gar- 
cia's voice, and more than once during the lat- 
ter part of the afternoon he caught a curious, 




Forebodings 255 

furtive expression in one or another of the Ma- 
lays* faces which made him wonder. He did 
not speak of it to Kent. It was all too indefi- 
nite and tmcertain, and he had a dread of being 
laughed at or of giving the impression that his 
nerves were getting the best of him. Never- 
theless, in spite of Garcia's suave blandness, 
Dick had a vague, uncomfortable feeling that 
something he could not understand was going 
on beneath the surface. 

Late the following afternoon things came 
suddenly to a head. They had left the low- 
lands and begun to ascend a gentle grade which 
seemed to be the lower slope of a mountain 
range. From the very start Dick noticed that 
the men seemed curiously reluctant to proceed. 
As the day advanced they lagged perceptibly, 
and though Garcia stormed up and down the 
line urging them on, he had little success. 
Presently Sarak came back to try his influence, 
but his words were apparently not much more 
effective. He had barely returned to the head 
of the line when Garcia hurried up. 



256 The Emerald Buddha 

"The men — ^they no go on/' he stated in his 
broken English. 

Sherwood looked at him keenly. "Won't go 
on ?" he repeated. "Why not ?" 

"They say zee place we go to is — ^how you say 
it ? — it is haunt. The evil spirits life zare." 

Kent's eyes narrowed. "How do they know 
where we're going?" he asked sharply. 

Garcia shrugged his shoulders. "Zee moun- 
tain yonder — they say he full of spirits zat eat 
up brown man. They go any place, Meester 
Sherwood, say 'cept zat. For me, I care 
not'ing, but zee men, they 'f raid." 

For a. moment Kent stood frowning. Then 
his shoulders squared. "Very well," he said 
curtly. "We'll make camp here. I suppose 
they're not afraid to do that ?" 

"They no like, p'raps," shrugged the half- 
breed, "but mus' do. I go to tell." 

Sherwood's eyes followed him for a moment 
or two. Then a few rapid words sent the four 
Malays back to join the others. When these 



Forebodings 257 

were out of hearing he glanced significantly at 
Sarak, who stood quietly beside him. 

'^Some of his dirty work/' he commented 
briefly. 

The Malay nodded. "I t'ink so. Not many 
know jus' where this place ees. He tell them 
we go, an' then they 'member t'ings they hear 
'bout Devil Mountain." 

"Exactly. That shows he spied on us and 
overheard. You think none of them can be 
persuaded to go any further ?" 

Sarak shook his head decidedly. "Not 
now," he answered positively. 

"How far are we from — this place?" asked 
Sherwood after a momentary paused. 

" 'Bout one day walk — ^mebbe little more." 

"What's to prevent our going on alone and 
leaving Garcia here with the men? They 
wouldn't run away with our stuff, would they ?" 

Sarak spoke slowly. "No steal goods. 
Mebbe run away — if he tell 'em more about — 
spirits." 



2S8 The Emerald Buddha 

"We'd have to take that chance. You'd be 
willing to guide us there, wouldn't you — ^Dick 
and me, I mean." 

For a brief moment Sarak hesitated. 
Watching him closely, Dick saw the muscles of 
the man's face quiver and glimpsed for an in- 
stant in the dark eyes a look which had not been 
there even when he faced the charging bull 
elephant and almost certain death. It was fear 
— elemental, consuming fear. He, too, was 
afraid of something which lay hidden in the 
depths of this unknown, mysterious jungle. 
The realization startled Dick and set his heart 
to thumping suddenly. Then the look passed 
like a ripple on a pond and the Malay spoke. 

"Yes," he said quietly. "I take you." 

"Fine," said Sherwood, who had been busy 
with his pipe. "I'll arrange things with Garcia 
and we'll start early in the morning. I still 
can't see what his game is," he went on thought- 
fully. "He must know that he would be left 
behind." 

The night was a restless one for Dick. He 



Forebodings 259 

had the last watch, and though he tried to com- 
pose himself to slumber fairly early in the even- 
ing, every now and then that awed, frightened 
look on Sarak's face came back to trouble him. 
It was so much more poignant and definite than 
anything he had noticed in the man before that 
it seemed to strike a jangling note of apprehen- 
sion in the boy's own mind. Time and again 
he told himself that the Malay simply shared 
the ignorant superstitions of his race — ^that, 
like the others, he merely believed in the ghosts 
of the mountain and the evil spirits which "ate 
up brown men." What else could there be to 
worry him or any of them ? Garcia, on being 
told that they meant to take a day or two to ex- 
plore the neighborhood, had neither showed 
surprise nor made objection. He was to stay 
behind and keep the camp in order until their 
return, and with the plotting half-breed out of 
the running, Dick felt that their way ought to 
be clear and easy. Nevertheless, he tossed 
wakefuUy, oppressed by he knew not what, 
finally snatching a few hours of fitful, troubled 



26o The Emerald Buddha 

slumber. During his watch, which ended with 
the dawn, the shrill cries and weird night noises 
of the jungle folk, to which he thought he had 
long since grown accustomed, annoyed him des- 
perately, and he was disgusted at the state of 
nerves he had allowed himself to work up. 

Daylight, however, brought courage and 
comfort as it so often does. They left camp di- 
rectly after breakfast, carrying rifles and am- 
munition, a single blanket each and two days' 
supply of food. Garcia waved them adieu with 
many promises that things should be well looked 
after during their absence, and as Dick glanced 
back at the half-breed's smiling, treacherous 
face he was conscious of a feeling of relief and 
satisfaction. 

"At least we're rid of you and your plot- 
ting," he muttered under his breath. 



CHAPTER XXV 



THE FLYING TERROR 



Somehow or other, though, the day did not 
prove as cheerful and pleasant as he had ex- 
Dected. There was little conversation. Sarak, 
never very talkative, seemed more than usually 
silent, and even Sherwood had not much to say. 

Their course did not lead directly up the 
mountain, but carried them diagonally along its 
slope, and something in the character of the 
surroundings accounted, perhaps, for the men- 
tal oppression which, before noon, seemed to 
have fallen upon all three. 

They had long since become used to jungle 

travelling, to hacking their way through masses 

of undergrowth and great trees bound together 

by the ever present vines and creepers into an 

almost impenetrable tangle. But back there in 

the flat country there had been occasional 

261 




262 The Emerald Buddha 

streams or rivers to cross, where they got at 
least a glimpse now and then of patches of blue 
sky overhead and a blaze of tropic sunshine. 

There was nothing of this sort now to cheer 
them. As they advanced the trees increased in 
size and the undergrowth thinned and died out. 
At length they were walking between vast pil- 
lars that rose up to a matted canopy of green 
through which not a single flicker of sunlight 
penetrated. Ropy creepers swung from tree to 
tree ; here and there gorgeous crijnson orchids 
gleamed through the shadows in patches of sin- 
ister blood-red color. Finally even the spindly 
undergrowth vanished and the ground was cov- 
ered with blotched, poisonous-looking fungi and 
a stiff, pale green moss which crunched under 
their feet. The air in this still, shadowy place 
became damp and almost cold. 

All day long, save for a brief halt at noon, 
they pushed on through this silent, oppressive 
forest. Sarak led the way and Dick brought 
up in the rear. Now and again at long inter- 
vals Kent would ask a question to which the 



The Flying Terror 263 

Malay replied in jerky monosyllables. Dick 
rarely saw his face, but somehow he had a feel- 
ing that the man's fear and nervousness were 
increasing as they advanced. Toward the end 
of the afternoon he took to darting swift 
glances from side to side ; once or twice he even 
stopped short and stared into the tree-tops as if 
he had seen or heard something that troubled 
him. The result was that when they finally 
halted about six o'clock the boy was ready to 
yell from sheir nervous tension. 

"Are we going to camp here?" he asked, 
anything to keep his voice steady. 

Sherwood turned from Sarak, who had been 
speaking in a low, hurried undertone. 

"Yes. The place is five or six miles away. 
Sarak doesn't want to be caught there by — ^by 
darkness. We'll sleep here and go on at 
dawn." 

Warrender made no comment. Into his 
mind — ^just how he did not know, except that 
he had probably been unconsciously absorbing 
something of the Malay superstition — ^there 



264 The Emerald Buddha 

had been slowly forming all day a fantastic no- 
tion that the ancient Buddha sitting in its ruined 
shrine was the very fountain head of all the 
weird and ghostly terrors of this unspeakable 
forest. There were moments when his 
wrought-up imagination even pictured the idol 
as something definitely and concretely evil, a 
sort of arch-fiend or power of darkness. He 
told himself that it was all the most utter non- 
sense, yet he could not help a feeling of sym- 
pathy with the Malay ; certainly he found him- 
self distinctly thankful that they were to pass 
the night where they were. 

The mere occupation of gathering materials 
for a fire and of cooking the supper was a re- 
lief, but one which was soon over. Scarcely 
had they finished eating when the swift, tropic 
darkness turned the shadows about them into 
the blackest night — s, blackness more oppressive 
than any the boy had ever known. 

The glow of their little fire was like the 
merest pin prick of light in an infinity of dark- 
ness. It flickered on the massive roots of per- 



The Flying Terror 265 

haps a dozen giant trees, touched vaguely a cur- 
tain of tangled vines behind them, brought into 
sharp relief a single grotesque clump of orange 
colored fungus, but that was all. The rest of 
the world was blotted out as if it had never 
been, and as Dick lay on his blanket, chin 
cupped in his hands, it was not difficult to people 
that smothering blackness with almost any hor- 
ror. 

For a time he and Kent talked spasmodically 
in tones unconsciously lowered. Sarak took no 
part in the conversation. He sat motionless, 
the blanket draped about his shoulders. His 
eyes were fixed and staring, and once, as Dick 
brushed his hand in moving, he found it cold as 
ice. 

It was Sherwood who presently suggested 
that they turn in, and who arranged the 
watches. He himself took the second one 
allotting the first to Sarak, and giving Dick that 
period between midnight and early dawn. 

The latter had never felt more wide awake. 
In spite of his loss of sleep the night before, he 



266 ' The Emerald Buddha 

found it impossible to close his eyes. Lying in 
the most comfortable position he could assume, 
his gaze wandered restlessly from Sarak's mo- 
tionless figure sitting close to Sherwood's prone 
one, thence to the black arch above and back 
again, a wearisome, eternal round. The 
slightest sound — ^and there were many queer 
cries and calls and rustlings both far and near 
— smote on his ears with curious distinctness. 
One in particular, a strange whistling shriek 
that rang through the jungle like an echo, 
growing fainter and fainter imtil it died away, 
he found especially trying. Once or twice as 
he stared upward he seemed actually to sense a 
moving blackness darker than the night itself, 
hovering above their little fire. But at that 
point he dug his teeth into his under lip and a 
swift rush of shame came over him that he 
could allow nerves and fancies to bring him to 
such a pass. 

He got some sleep at last, but it was not tmtil 
Kent's watch began, and it seemed as though 
he had scarcely closed his eyes before he was 



y 



The Flying Terror 267 

shaken into partial wakefulness by his cousin. 

'Time, old man," whispered Sherwood- 
*'You certainly were tearing it off, all right." 

Dick blinked, rubbed his eyes and sat up. 
Ten minutes later he was still sitting there, 
hunched up a bit, his hands dangling limply 
from his knees. On either side of him lay the 
sleeping figures of Sarak and Sherwood; in 
front the fire, recently replenished, burned 
brightly. He stared at it dully with sleep- 
filmed eyes. Presently his head drooped, lifted 
slowly, drooped again until bis forehead rested 
upon his upraised knees. . . . 

He seemed to be alone in the forest walking 
endlessly. It was night, yet there was a curi- 
ously luminous quality to the atmosphere 
which came, apparently, from little dancing 
globes of clear white fire. He looked closer 
and saw that the globes were held by shadowy 
figures like mis^apen men floating through the 
darkness. One of them swept close to him and 
by the light of the glowing sphere he recognized 
the face of Garcia set in a leering, sinister grin. 



268 The Emerald Buddha 

The face passed on, drifting into the night ; the 
other shadows vanished, the globes were blotted 
out. Somewhere in the infinite blackness of 
space another light sprang up. Tiny at first, 
it brightened swiftly as it came toward him un- 
til at length the serried ranks of giant trees 
were lit up brilliantly as with the passing of a 
flame. And then he distinguished, floating to- 
ward him through the forest, the seated figure 
of a man. The face was calm, almost expres- 
sionless, yet in the eyes and the evil half smile 
there seemed to lurk the piled up wickedness of 
untold centuries. One hand lay upturned in its 
lap, the other, outstretched, held a great crystal 
which blazed fiercely with a strange green fire. 

The boy tried to cry out, but could not. He 
strove to fly from that placid, smiling horror, 
but seemed powerless to stir. On it came, 
floating as on a river, closer and closer still. 
The hot breath of its passing swept the boy's 
face, and then and only then, with a frantic 
struggle and a smothered cry, he burst the hid- 
eous nightmare thralls and woke. 



The Flying Terror 269 

The fire had died to a red glow. About him 
pressed the jungle, black and silent. And yet 
he could have sworn that an instant before 
something had brushed across his face; some- 
thing real, concrete and not the figments of a 
dream — something whose very presence damp- 
ened his forehead with cold sweat and brought 
fear to his heart. 

With shaking fingers he felt for the revolver 
strapped to his hip. There was reassurance in 
the touch of the cold steel. The pounding of 
his heart lessened a little, and reaching out to 
the wood pile, he threw a couple of sticks on the 
embers. A brief pause followed, before the 
tiny flames licked up the sides of the dry wood. 
An instant later there was a beat of wings and 
something vague, black, monstrous, swept out 
of the darkness straight at him. 

In that flashing second Dick was conscious 
only of vast wings covered with glistening skin 
like oiled leather. There was a gleam of gray- 
brown fur, the vague glimpse of a vicious look- 
ing head with sharply pointed ears that seemed 



270 The Emerald Buddha 

as large as a small leopard's. He had just time 
to fling one arm across his eyes when the things 
struck him, flinging him backward to the 
ground, and a daw tore sidewise along one 
cheek. At the same instant the embers of the 
fire were scattered far and wide and he was 
plunged into suffocating darkness. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

THE VANISHING OF SARAK 

For a moment Dick lay there partly stunned, 
the warm blood trickling down his face. Then 
he heard Kent's voice. 

"What in thunder was that? What's up?" 

"I — I don't know," stammered the boy. 
"It's something horribly big that flies. Look 
out. Here it comes again." 

Above their heads there came a swift beat of 

wings. Instinctively Dick rolled over on his 

face, and he was only just in time. He heard 

Kent cry out in mingled pain and anger. Then 

something heavy struck against his legs and an 

instant later he felt one ankle gripped by sharp 

teeth. He yelled and kicked out fiercely, but 

the creature kept its hold. His right arm was 

doubled under him and he could not reach his 

revolver with the other. 

271 



2/2 The Emerald Buddha 

"It's got me by the leg !" he cried "Shoot it, 
can't you ?" 

"I'm afraid of hitting you," panted Sher- 
wood. "Wait a second." 

A moment later Warrender felt his hand 
fumbling in the darkness. It touched the boy's 
head and went swiftly on along his back. Sud- 
denly Dick felt it recoil. Then he heard Kent 
gasp: "Steady, now. I'm going to crack it." 

Warrender lay still with gritted teeth. 
Kent's leg was pressed against his body, and all 
at once he felt the muscles harden. In another 
moment there wfis a dull thud followed by a 
weird whistling shriek that turned his blood 
cold. 

At once the teeth relaxed their hold. There 
came a dragging sound accompanied by an odd 
rustling like vellum or oiled paper. The thing 
was moving away. Panting with excitement, 
Dick ventured to lift himself from the ground 
and began to feel for his weapon. His fingers 
closed about the butt and he was drawing it 



The Vanishing of Sarak 273 

from the holster when a little tongue of flame 
burst up from the wood pile. 

A live coal must have rolled over there when 
the fire was scattered, and for a moment or two 
the boy watched dully as the flames licked up 
over the dry branches, growing ever brighter. 
Then his gaze shifted and he caught his breath 
in startled wonder. 

A score of feet or more away a shapeless 
black mass was moving slowly over the fungus- 
covered ground. In that first instant Dick 
could only liken it to a collapsed umbrella of 
enormous size. Then the brightening fire or 
some shift in position of the creature brought it 
for a moment into full view, and a cry of min- 
gled astonishment and horror burst simultane- 
ously from the cousins. 

The thing was a gigantic hat! The pointed 
nozzle was there, the soft brown fur, the sharp 
ears, the close-set vicious eyes and the leathery 
wings. But the wings had a spread of at least 
a dozen feet, while the head, with its narrow. 



274 The Emerald Buddha 

pointed jaw and sharp, bared teeth, was quite 
as large as the head of a full grown setter. 

"Shoot it, quick !" cried Warrender. 

Sherwood, who till then had stood spell- 
bound, drew his rifle swiftly to his shoulder and 
tried to pull the trigger. But this was jammed, 
and with a muttered exclamation of disgust, he 
dropped the weapon and reached for Dick's. 
As he did so there came a sudden rustle and the 
creature rose slowly into the air. It flew heav- 
ily, with a labored beating of its wings, but be- 
fore Kent could take aim with the revolver it 
had disappeared amongst the thick trees. He 
fired twice at random, but with no apparent ef- 
fect. Then he lowered the weapon and stared 
at Dick. 

"Of all the — ^nightmares !" he gasped. 

Warrender smiled faintly; he was feeling a 
little sick. "One of the — ^ghosts," he mur- 
mured. "Did you ever see — " 

"Never !" cut in the older chap emphatically. 
"It's a new one on me. There are fl3dng foxes, 
here, of course, but they're nothing like as big. 



The Vanishing of Sarak 275 

I did have a Dyak tell me once some years ago 
about a beast which might fit this creature, but 
they're such thundering liars sometimes — '^ 

Suddenly he broke off and stared about with 
a bewildered expression. *' Where's Sarak?" 
he demanded. 

Dick's jaw sagged and his gaze travelled 
mechanically around the circle of firelight. 
Events had been moving so swiftly that until 
this moment there had been scarcely time to 
think. But now, looking back, he realized that 
from the moment of his awakening to the 
burned-out fire and that hovering black terror, 
there had been neither sight nor sound of the 
Malay. His blanket lay upon the ground close 
to where Dick had been sitting; beside it was his 
precious rifle. But of Sarak himself there was 
no sign. He might have vanished into thin air. 

"You — ^you don't think he ran away, do 
you ?" the boy asked slowly. 

"When that thing dropped on us, you 
mean ?" 

"Yes. He's been pretty much worked up 



276 The Emerald Buddha 

over something ever since we left camp. This 
might have been the finishing touch." 

Kent nodded "I know. I don't believe he 
was afraid of anything material, though. It 
was those darned superstitious notions about 
the spirits that got his goat. He*s chock full 
of it like all these natives. Of course he might 
have thought it something uncanny, but surely 
by this time — '' 

He paused, hesitated a moment and then sent 
Sarak's name ringing through the silent woods. 
Again and again he called, but there was no 
answer, and finally, with a puzzled shrug, he 
turned to Dick. 

'It's got me," he confessed. 'What on earth 
could have happened to him? He'd have 
heard that if he was within half a mile of here." 

"Easily," agreed Warrender. He was busy 
unlacing the high, heavy leather boot which was 
torn and haggled about the ankle, but now he 
stopped and looked up. "There's another 
thing, Kent," he said seriously. "What's go- 
ing to happen if he shouldn't come back? 






The Vanishing of Sarak 277 

Have you any idea how to get to this — 
Buddha?" 

Not much," admitted Sherwood frowning. 
Let's see that foot of yours. Did the brute's 
teeth get through?" 

"A little, I think. It aches, but not very 
badly." 

Kent knelt down and removing the lace, 
gently drew off the heavy boot. When the 
boy's foot was bared, they saw across the in- 
step a small puncture from which the blood 
oozed slowly. Sherwood cleaned it thoroughly 
with water from a canteen and then produced 
a bottle of iodine from his pack. 

"It's jaw couldn't have been very strong," he 
conmiented, as he applied this freely, "or he'd 
have bitten clean through the ankle." 

"Believe me, it had a grip all right," said 
Dick, his forehead crinkling with the sharp 
pain of the antiseptic. "I thought it would 
never let go. If we hadn't had these boots 
made especially heavy on account of snakes, 
I'd have been pretty well chewed up." 



278 The Emerald Buddha 

The wound was carefully bound up -with 
clean gauze, and by the time Dick had loosely 
laced his boot again they realized that dawn 
was upon them. The dense blackness about 
them had changed to a cold, ghostly gray which, 
in turn, swiftly lightened to that shadowy half 
twilight that was bright as it would ever be in 
this weird, depressing forest. 

At once they began a thorough search of the 
camp and its neighborhood for traces of the 
missing guide. Dick carried his cousin's use- 
less rifle while Kent appropriated the Malay's. 
Reason told them that there was small chance 
of a return of that horrible nocturnal creature, 
yet the thought of it rarely left their minds and 
they moved cautiously with many a searching 
glance about and overhead. 

It was Dick who first noticed the crushed 
fungus, its fleshy spores already darkening with 
exposure to the air. Something or someone had 
passed that way, and not so very long ago either. 

"That toadstool stuff turns black in an hour's 
time," said Kent, an eager sparkle in his eyes. 



v«. 



The Vanishing of Sarak 279 

Circling about, they presently found another 
broken bit a dozen yards or so away. A b'ttle 
further on they came unexpectedly upon a tiny 
spring bubbling out of the foul looking earth, 
and made a significant discovery. 

In the soft ooze of its margin fresh foot- 
prints were outlined clearly. There were two 
distinct sets of them, placed close together as if 
from men walking side by side. One of these 
were imprints of naked feet — ^the broad, flat, 
calloused foot of Dyak or Malay. The other — 
"Boots !" cried Sherwood, pointing in amaze- 
ment. 

And then they both remembered that Garcia 
wore boots, taking great pride in the fact that 
he always went shod like a white man. To 
their almost certain knowledge there was no 
other such within a htmdred miles of where 
they stood. 

Dick caught his breath with an odd, whistling 
intake, and for a long moment the two stood 
motionless, staring at one another, a startled, 
uneasy questioning in their gaze. 






CHAPTER XXVII 

THE Buddha's vengeance 

It was Dick who first found his voice. 
"How on earth — " he stammered. "What — '' 

Kent seemed to sense his unspoken question. 
"I don't know/' he answered harshly. "It's 
Garcia, of course. He's followed us." 

"But Sarak ! How did he get hold of him ?" 

Sherwood's face hardened and his grip tight- 
ened on the rifle. "I don't know," he repeated. 
"He's after the emerald, of course. He must 
have left camp almost as soon as we did and 
trailed us. As for Sarak — " He hesitated 
and his eyes grew puzzled. "I don't under- 
stand that part. I'd have sworn that Sarak 
was loyal to the core." 

"Perhaps he was forced to go along," sug- 
gested Dick. 

"But how? He was there beside us. You 

were on watch. No one — " 

280 



The Buddha's Vengeance 281 

''But I wasn't," confessed Dick, his face 
flushing. *1 ought to be kicked, old man, but 
I— fell asleep." 

"Oh!" murmured Kent. ''Still, even that 
doesn't explain it. Sarak was no coward. Be- 
sides, a single cry or the noise of a struggle 
would have wakened both of us. Unless he 
went willingly, I don't see — " He broke off, 
jaw squaring and eyes narrowed. "No matter 
how it happened, he's gone," he went on curtly. 
"It's up to us to catch them. I certainly don't 
mean to let that greasy half-breed do us out of 
the emerald without a fight for it." 

There was a few minutes' delay while he took 
out his pocket compass and set a course. Then 
they moved swiftly forward and were presently 
rewarded by signs which showed that Kent's 
supposition was right. The two men were evi- 
dently proceeding more or less directly toward 
a definite goal. 

"I wonder how much start they have ?" pon- 
dered Dick presently. 

"Not a great deal, I fancy. They couldn't 



282 The Emerald Buddha 

get far in the dark. As a matter of fact, I Ve 
an idea they only went as far as the spring and 
waited there till daylight. You noticed that 
jumble of footprints on the further side? In 
a way this makes things easier for us. WeVe 
only to follow their trail to come straight to the 
Buddha.'' 

"But suppose they get there first, as they're 
almost sure to do, and take the emerald? 
WeVe really no more right to it than anyone 
else, have we? It's a sort of case of 'finders 
keepers.' " 

Kent nodded slowly. "In a way, yes. If 
Sarak choses to lead anyone else to the place — 
But I still can't believe he's taking that beast 
there of his own free will. He's not that sort 
at all. There's something queer about the 
whole business, and it's up to us to find out what 
it is." 

He plunged ahead and for a time they pushed 
through the jungle in silence. Sherwood con- 
sulted his compass frequently, and presently no- 
ticed that the trail they were following began 



The Buddha's Vengeance 283 

to verge slowly toward the east. The curve 
was very gradual, but it was steady, and at the 
end of another hour they were many points off 
the original course. 

Kent made no comment, but his face was puz- 
zled Half a mile further on he stopped 
and examined the ground closely. For many 
feet around it was trampled as if there had 
been a struggle. Several of the yellow fungi 
had been crushed to fragments; the torn re- 
mains of a great crimson orchid lay wilting on 
the moss. 

The man's heart leaped and his eyes sparkled. 
Was Sarak rebelling against whatever force or 
influence had brought him here? Eagerly his 
gaze swept the jungle and for a moment he al- 
most expected to see the body of the traitor 
Garcia lying in the shadows. But, though they 
both searched carefully, they discovered noth- 
ing save that the trail, which was picked jip 
just beyond the scene of the struggle^ turned 
abruptly to the south. A little further on a 
swampy hollow recorded more footprints, but 



284 The Emerald Buddha 

in this case instead of lying side by side, the 
marks of the bare feet -were ahnost obliterated 
by the imprints of the boots which came behind. 
Sherwood's eyes took on a sudden, hard 
lustre. Swiftly he set an experimental course 
with the compass, and as before the marks of 
the trail presently bore him out. He was con- 
vinced that either with kris or levelled rifle 
Garcia was forcing the Malay to lead him to the 
treasure. Sarak, as he read the signs, had 
tried at first to take the half-breed astray. 
Then came suspicion and discovery, followed 
by a struggle in which the Malay had suc- 
cumbed. He was slight and small boned, and 
though Garcia was not tall, he had muscles of 
steel. There was still a good deal Kent failed 
to understand, but one thing seemed certain 
now. If they wished to save the emerald, and 
perhaps even Sarak's life, there was the great- 
est need for speed. Once he had secured the 
sure there was scarcely a chance that Gar- 
would spare the Malay. 
I a few words he explained his suspicions to 



The Buddha's Vengeance 285 

Dick, and then began a chase which neither of 
them would soon forget. For nearly an hour 
they sped through the jungle almost at a run, 
thankful for the lack of undergrowth which 
made this possible. Most of the way led up 
hill. The hot, humid atmosphere was heavy 
and oppressive, and they were quickly drenched 
with perspiration. Now and again they had 
to pause from sheer exhaustion or to set the 
compass. Sometimes one or the other slipped 
on a mass of fungus or tripped ovgr a trailing 
root, but they were swiftly up and on again, 
panting, stumbling, speechless from fatigue 
and failing breath, but dominated by the feel- 
ing that they must not stop as long as they could 
put one foot before the other. At times the 
pain in Dick's ankle was almost unsupportable, 
but he was determined not to let it delay the 
pursuit. 

So passed an hour. Then slowly the char- 
acter of the jungle began to change. The trees 
lessened in girth ; undergrowth began to spring 
up here and there, growing ever thicker. Im- 



286 The Emerald Buddha 

perceptibly the gloom lightened, until at last 
they could even see flashes of warm color in the 
distance and felt once more that somewhere the 
sun was shining. 

"WeVe coming out," panted Dick, dashing 
one hand across his streaming forehead. 

*Trovided we can get through this beastly 
tangle," agreed Sherwood, tearing viciously at 
a mass of vines. "What fools we were not to 
bring our knives." 

Then for the first time Fortune seemed to 
smile. A few yards to the left loomed the op- 
ening of a dusky tunnel freshly hacked through 
the dense tropic growth. Garcia and the Ma- 
lay had evidently gone this way, and as they 
plunged into it there was an added comfort in 
the feeling that the cutting of it must have very 
much delayed their enemy. 

Save for occasional hidden pitfalls, the way 
was fairly clear. Around them the shadowy 
half darkness had given place to a translucent 
golden-green. There were still trees, and large 
ones, but these were further apart and not so 



The Buddha's Vengeance 287 

towering. Some time in ages past the pri- 
meval forest had been completely cleared away 
and this was second growth. 

For half a mile or so they pushed forward in 
silence. Then Sherwood stopped abruptly with 
a smothered exclamation of surprise. Across 
their path there lay a ruined wall of thick ma- 
sonry. Great blocks of stone carved with in- 
tricate designs of elephants, weird beasts and 
men in curious postures had fallen from the 
top, but the solid portion was still high enough 
to block their way. 

The trail turned sharply to the right, skirting 
the wall a score of yards to a great square gate- 
way, whose fallen top lay in a mass of stone 
and rubbish, filling the opening for several feet. 

Dick's heart was thumping with excitement 
as he followed Kent over the rough heap and 
gained the inner side of the wall. Before them 
lay a flat, square courtyard, paved with im- 
mense blocks of yellowish stone. On either 
side rose up massive ruined buildings, roofless 
and open to the sky, their walls covered with 



288 The Emerald Buddha 

carving. Here and there trees had sprung up, 
their roots upheaving some of the great stones 
that formed the courtyard floor, their branches 
thrusting through gaunt open window-holes. 
Vines twined about everywhere, but in spite of 
the masses of vivid green, the sunlight lay 
across the ancient pavement in streaks and 
patches of glorious color. 

Yet, welcome as it was, Dick scarcely noticed 
it. His eyes were riveted on another gateway 
in the opposite wall, though which his keyed-up 
senses seemed to have caught the sound of 
voices. 

A streak of golden green gleaming with a 
dull iridescence writhed across his path and 
vanished in a hole. He recognized it as the 
most venomous tropic reptile in his knowledge, 
but even that failed to move him. His whole 
being was centered on that gateway and on 
what might lie Ixryond. A moment later he 
caught up to Sherwood and together they crept 
steathily to the opening and peered through. 
A stretch of uneven stone pavement met their 



The Buddha's Vengeance 289 

gaze. Beyond, a flight of stone steps, rounded 
and crumbling with age, led up to a narrow, • 
flat platform. Facing them, on a level with the 
platform, stood a ruined shrine, the delicate 
laccry of its remaining shreds of carving shad- 
owed by an immense zapote tree, whose spread- 
ing branches swept low over the placid, im- 
movable figure that sat therein. 

But the branches were not too low, nor their 
shadow too deep, to hide the face of the seated 
Buddha. Calm, almost expressionless it was, 
yet about the corners of the mouth there lurked 
the beginnings of a smile — a smile so sinister, 
so cruel, so full of the unutterable wickedness 
of ages, that the boy, remembering the details 
of that hateful nightmare, turned cold. As in 
that dream, one hand lay upturned in its lap; 
the other, outstretched, met with a ray of clear 
sunshine streaming through the branches of the 
tree. Something it held which gleamed and 
glittered in the sunlight — something shining, 
crystal, gorgeously green in hue. 

A stifled sob of wonder and of dread burst 



290 The Emerald Buddha 

from the boy's lips. That sinister, smiling 
thing seemed to hold him spellbound. He 
scarcely heeded the man in tattered white who 
stumbled up the steps, one hand reaching^ out 
covetously. 

It was Garcia. With a strange feeling^ of 
detachment, almost as if he were looking at a 
play, Dick watched the man run up those few 
remaining steps and gain the platform. There 
came the briefest pause as if even this hard- 
ened creature had been smitten at the last mo- 
ment with something of that superstitious ter- 
ror which had kept the treasure so long invio- 
late. In that pause the boy*s eyes shifted to 
the bottom of the steps, where Sarak crouched, 
his tense, upturned face stamped with a look of 
such horrified suspense that Dick's gaze veered 
swiftly back toward the unknown catastrophe. 

He was just in time to see Garcia step for- 
ward suddenly, his greedy fingers closing about 
the emerald. Apparently this did not come 
away easily from its age-old resting place in 



The Buddha^ s Vengeance 291 

the hollow of the Buddha's hand, and Garcia 
jerked at it impatiently. 

Like a flash the Buddha's outstretched arm 
swept upward and then back again, the emerald 
gleaming in that rapid movement a brilliant 
arc of greenish fire. Garcia flung up both 
arms and spun around, a scream of fear burst- 
ing from his lips. A second later he had van- 
ished. 

Sherwood gave a sharp cry and bent for- 
ward ; from the crouching Malay there came a 
long, sobbing groan. Warrender's face was 
white and sweat-dabbled, and in his wide, be- 
wildered stare there was a touch of fear. It 
seemed incredible that in that flashing ii\stant 
the man could possibly have disappeared, and 
yet — 



CHAPTER XXVIII 



BY A HAIRBREADTH 



There in its ruined shrine the placid Buddha 
sat as it had sat for untold ages. Its out- 
stretched hand still held the glowing emerald; 
its lips still curved in that sinister, cruel smile. 
But to Dick's overwrought nerves the eyes, 
bent upon the empty platform at its feet, 
seemed to hold in them a horrid gleam of evil 
satisfaction. 

"He's — ^he's gone !" gasped Sherwood. 

Dick nodded. A moment later, moved ap- 
parently by the same impulse, the two straight- 
ened and moved slowly across the ancient pave- 
ment. 

Sarak, still huddled at the foot of the steps, 
turned on them a face which seemed almost 
gray in hue. His eyes were terrified and his 
whole body trembled. 



By a Hairbreadth 293 

"You — ^you saw?" he whispered, moistening 
his dry lips. 

"Yes. What— what happened?" 

The Malay shuddered and made a strange 
sign with one hand. "The god has claimed 
him/' he muttered in his own tongue. "He 
takes swift vengeance on the despoiler." 

Sherwood pursed up his lips ; he was rapidly 
recovering his poise and self-control. 

"I think not," he said decidedly. "It takes 
something besides vengeance to wipe a man 
off the map like that. I wish I knew just 
what—" 

He paused, glancing thoughtfully up at the 
seated idol. Sarak stared at him with horrified 
eyes. 

"You must not think to try ! " he protested 
rapidly. "It is death ! We must go from this 
evil place while we may. Even to stay here 
may be a danger." 

Kent looked at him curiously. "Why did 
you bring Garcia here ? " he asked abruptly. 

Sarak's face clouded. For a moment anger 



296 The Emerald Buddha 

sparkling. "rU bet anything the platform 
swung down and dropped him in. See how the 
moss is torn around the edges ? There must be 
a pit or some sort of a hollow tmderneath." 

"But what on earth made it drop ?" 

"The arm, I think. There's probably some 
arrangement of spring or levers between that 
and what supports the platform. You noticed 
how he tugged at the emerald and the way the 
arm shot up? The stone must be fastened to 
the hand. I've heard of those contrivances 
before. They found one in a ruined temple in 
Sumatra, but that let down a big rock from 
above that smashed the fellow who discovered 
it." 

Dick's face brightened with comprehension 
and interest. He realized at once the simple 
cleverness of the device. To reach the emer- 
ald from the front one had to step directly on 
the metal platform. Probably the balance was 
so delicate that the slightest tug on the* out- 
stretched hand sufficed to destroy it. 

"But what — what's down there?" he asked 



By a Hairbreadth 297 

suddenly. "Do you suppose Garcia can be still 
alive and — and suflfocating, or something?" 

"I don't know, but I should say not. Those 
old priests were usually pretty thorough. 
There might be a pool down there fed by 
springs, or some arrangement of sharp blades 
to pierce him. Ugh ! What a beastly looking 
brute he is ! Do you notice that sort of leering 
grin ? It's just as if he were waiting like some 
old spider in a web." 

"Don't!" protested Dick hastily. "I hate 
the sight of it. If you've got any plan for get- 
ting the emerald, let's go to it." 

"There's nothing hard about that if you're 
warned beforehand," smiled Sherwood, slip- 
ing off his coat. "We'll attack the old beggar 
from behind. You see, we know that he 
doesn't move. I believe by holding onto his 
head I can just reach the emerald, but to make 
things sure we'll both go over and one hang on 
to the other's belt." 

It sounded simple enough but Dick did not 
altogether fancy the undertaking. He was 




298 The Emerald Buddha 

game^ of course, but down in his heart there 
still lurked a little canker of uneasiness. 

Kent leaped across the platform first and 
Dick followed him. Behind the seated Buddha 
was a narrow space, cluttered a little by fallen 
stones, but still quite passable. Reaching the 
right shoulder of the image they paused a mo- 
ment to make arrangements. At the last mo- 
ment it was decided that Dick, being consider- 
ably lighter than his cousin, should be the one 
to secure the treasure, while Sherwood held him 
firmly from behind. 

It all seemed ridiculously easy, and yet, as the 
boy climbed up and paused, one arm around the 
solid bronze neck of the idol, he felt an uncom- 
fortable shiver go over him. Then his eyes 
fell on the wonderful emerald and his spirits 
began to rise. 

"I'll need a knife,'' he said, after a moment's 
scrutiny. "It's fastened to the hand with little 
gold wires." 

Kent passed up his pocket knife and, leaning 



By a Hairbreadth 2gg 

far forward, the boy began to saw gingerly at 
the delicate wires. One was cut through; 
then two more. Beneath him he could feel the 
bronze arm yield and quiver a little, bift nothing 
more happened, and at last the final wire was 
severed. Dick handed back the knife and then, 
with a quick-drawn breath, bent forward to 
grasp the stone. As he did so one foot slipped 
slightly, throwing his weight for an instant on 
the arm against which he leaned. 

With a sudden click the bronze arm shot up 
past his face, striking him on one shoulder. 
He gave a cry of horror and dismay and 
clutched frantically at the glittering, flying 
jewel. There was a dull rumbling; a strange, 
foetid odor assailed him, and an instant later 
he found himself supported only by Sher- 
wood's strong arm, hanging over a shadowy 
pit which had opened at the Buddha's very 
feet. 

It was the most fleeting glimpse, for the 
bronze slab swung quickly into place again, but 



300 The Emerald Buddha 

m 

it was enough to turn the boy faint and sick. 
The shallow pit was alive with snakes — writh- 
ing, rustling, golden-green creatures, whose bite 
he knew meant almost instant death. And 
there, amidst that multitude of crawling hor- 
rors, the still figure of a man lay face down, 
motionless. 

A moment later Kent hauled him back and 
supported him with one arm about his shoul- 
ders, while Dick gasped out a few shaking 
words of explanation. 

"Do you think they were put there — on pur- 
pose ? " he finished unevenly. 

Sherwood's face crinkled with disgust. 
"Quite likely. Those old heathens were more 
than equal to it. The creatures live for ages^ 
and of course that hole makes a wonderful 
breeding place for them. But old man — " 
His face grew strained and anxious. "The — 
the emerald ? '' 

Dick smiled faintly and opened one tight- 
clenched fist. There in his brown palm lay the 
great jewel, gleaming, glittering even in the 



By a Hairbreadth 301 

shadows as if it held within itself a spark of 
glowing fire. 

*'It's lucky Tve played short on the team so 

long," murmured the boy. "I almost missed 

it." 




304 The Emerald Buddha 

"Sarak can be trusted, of course ? " 

"Absolutely. The only trouble is he's sure 
to be scared to death of the stone and feel that 
our keeping it will cause all kinds of evil for- 
tune to everyone concerned. Til do my best 
to persuade him that we are willing to take all 
the responsibility, and perhaps that'll make him 
easier in his mind." 

It was, of course, quite impossible to conceal 
the fact that the emerald was in their posses- 
sion. From his place at the foot of the steps 
the Malay had been a terrified witness of every- 
thing that took place on the platform, and 
when they joined him he was full of horror at 
the sacrilege. 

But Sherwood's soothing explanation quieted 
him a little, and as a further concession to his 
superstitious fears, they left the place at once, 
though they would have much preferred re- 
maining for at least a day to explore the ancient, 
ruined city. Shortly before noon they passed 
their last night's camping place and by hard 



At Last 305 

going managed to reach the confines of the 
dreary forest by nightfall 

Even then they did not feel entirely at 
ease regarding a possible visit from one of the 
hideous batlike monsters, and kept a strict 
watch and a brightly burning fire all night long. 
But nothing happened to disturb them, and 
starting again at dawn they made their old en- 
campment a little after ten o'clock. 

They were only just in time. Alarmed by 
the prolonged absence of all their leaders, whom 
by this time they felt sure must have fallen 
victims to the horrors of the haunted forest, 
the natives had packed up everything and were 
on the point of departure when the three men 
suddenly appeared amongst them. 

These were greeted with shouts of surprised 
delight, and after a few words of explanation 
in which Sherwood, with perfect truth, told 
them that Garcia had perished of snake bite, 
the command to march was given. 
Though not without adventure, the return 




3o6 The Emerald Buddha 

trip was aca^nplifthcd much more quickly and 
easily than the other had heen. Keeping cloM 
(m the hack trail much toilsome cutting of un- 
dcrjjrowfh was avoided, and they came out on 
the hank r>f the f Jmhanjf River a little over 
three weeks later. 

The launch, /;f course, had returned to J-A- 
htian, hut after considerahle delay they secured 
two native's proas in which the entire party em- 
harked for the f British settlement. Here the 
mvx} were paid off and dismissed, and Sherw^xxl 
and Warrender \f9<}V p/iss;ij/e on the first 
steamer to sail for Sinj;?i|>/;re. Sarak saw 
them off, his manm-r an ofjd minj/lin;; of regret 
and furtiv/-, yf'\ nnmist;ik;ihlr relief. 

"Kr still thinks weVr hoodoofd and \ guesft 
he's glad to see the vui\ of fis,** smiled Sher- 
w^/;d, as t}iey lK>th wav^-d vigorously at the 
f*Tf'C.\^ motionl^'i;s figure '-.t/'inding on the d/K:k. 
"He's ahout tlje w})itf'st n;»tive FVe ever run 
across, and f liopr hf'*ll m;ikf tli^* most of that 
wad of mon^'y wf g;iv^' him ;ind settle down 
r/;mfort;jhly for tlif rf';f of his life. There'* 



At Last 307 

one thing certain, though ; nothing on earth will 
ever induce him to go within a hundred miles of 
that old Buddha again as long as he lives/' 

'^ YouVe said it ! " chuckled Dick. '^Though 
for that matter I don't believe I would either/' 

Two months later they stood again together 
on a steamer's deck. This time it was the deck 
of the big liner they had boarded at Liverpool, 
for the return trip had been made through the 
Suez Canal and the Mediterranean. It was 
dusk and with Hellgate and the Narrows be- 
hind them, their gaze was set ahead to where 
the towering skyscrapers of the city were out- 
lined like jagged mountain tops against the 
evening glow. 

As the twilight deepened and lights began to 
twinkle in myriads of windows, Dick Warren- 
der gave a deep, contented sigh. It had been 
a wonderful trip, but somehow he was glad to 
be at home once more. The shrieking of a 
passing tug was music in his ears. Even the 
homely, familiar sight of a crowded ferry boat 
halted in midstream by their passing, made him 



3o8 The Emerald Buddha 

smile at the thought of the times when he had 
stood on the deck of perhaps that very boat 
chafing impatiently at just such a delay as this. 

And then the realization of how much had 
happened since he had last set foot upon a 
North River ferry boat, sent his thoughts sud- 
denly back into the past, and through his mind 
swept a succession of brilliant fleeting pictures 
— ^vivid, colorful, full of life and movement, 
and permeated by the hot, languorous, fasci- 
nating atmosphere of the East 

He saw Cairo and the pyramids of Egypt, 
blazing in the noonday glare. The flat, dun 
coast of Arabia swept in review before him, 
and Ceylon, embowered in green, with its an- 
cient ruins and carven images of other days. 
Again he passed through the ornate halls of 
the Temple of Vishnu, gazed wondering at the 
gorgeous golden dragons in the cave, shivered 
in the forest glade of that unknown atoll with 
its skeletons and poisoned pearls, or felt the 
Ocean Queen tremble in her death throes be- 
neath his feet. 



At Last 309 

But the vision which lingered longest was 

of that silent, ruined courtyard ringed round 

by jungle and dominated by the placid, seated 

Buddha with the evil smiling face, one hand 

eternally outstretched. The hand was empty 

now and in that sinister bronze face the boy 

seemed to sense a lurking look of baffled fury 

that made him shiver. Then suddenly he 

came back to earth and realized that Kent was 

speaking. 

"I asked if you were glad to be home again," 
repeated the latter, smiling at Dick's abstrac- 
tion. 

"Why, yes — I think so. Of course it's been 
a simply corking trip. I don't suppose the fel- 
lows will believe more than a quarter of what 
I've got to tell them. But of course home does 
look pretty nice after being away so long. . . . 
You're sure you've got it safe, Kent ? " 

For more than the hundredth time, Sherwood 
felt the soft, chamois money belt next to his 
skin in which reposed the Buddha's emerald. 
"Safe as a church, old top," he grinned. "I 



310 The Emerald Buddha 

don't know what my bank account will look like 
after IVe paid the duty — ^but I don't much care, 
either." 



THE END